Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators and Kaohsiung City councilors yesterday accused former Kaohsiung mayor Chen Chu’s (陳菊) administration of misappropriating cash donations after underground gas pipeline explosions in 2014.
The KMT’s Kaohsiung gas pipeline explosions panel last week publicized the alleged malpractice by Chen’s administration with information provided by Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu’s (韓國瑜) administration, KMT Legislator Hsu Shu-hua (許淑華) said, adding that Chen’s response at the time did not clarify doubts.
KMT Kaohsiung City Councilor Chen Li-na (陳麗娜), who heads the panel, said that the city government received more than NT$4.5 billion (US$143.17 million at the current exchange rate) in donations, while due state compensation and the compensation the municipal government had agreed to request on behalf of affected residents totaled only about NT$900 million.
The Kaohsiung Tourism Bureau received more than NT$50 million in donations, of which about NT$32.8 million was supplied by “balance from the Kaohsiung Social Affairs Bureau,” Chen Li-na said.
The tourism bureau used the money to fund a NT$1.5 million trip to Osaka for travel agency representatives and officials from Kaohsiung and Pingtung County to promote tourism in the two regions, she said.
Chen Chu’s administration spent another NT$1.5 million to promote local tours to 10 districts in Kaohsiung, but excluded Cianjhen (前鎮) and Lingya (苓雅) districts, where the blasts occurred and whose tourism industry was in need of a boost, she added.
The two incidents were potentially in breach of the Disaster Prevention and Protection Act (災害防救法), which stipulates that cash donations from the private sector must not be appropriated to cover a government’s administrative costs.
KMT Kaohsiung City Councilor Lee Ya-ching (李雅靜) said that Chen Chu’s administration used the donations to purchase new sofas for the city’s fire departments, computers, monitors, more than 300 cartons of office paper and fruits used as offerings at traditional rituals, as well as to pay the telephone bills of some senior officials.
Chen Chu’s administration had been “niggardly” when determining the sum of compensation to affected residents, she added.
KMT caucus whip William Tseng (曾銘宗) said that then-Kaohsiung City Government secretary-general Lee Ruey-tsang (李瑞倉) removed a clause in the guidelines on the use of dedicated bank accounts containing the donations that capped the amount of the donations that the government was allowed to spend at one-1000th of the total.
If proven true, Lee’s alleged tampering with the guidelines would be a breach of the Charity Donations Act (公益勸募條例), he added.
Lee, now president of Chunghwa Investment Co, yesterday denied the allegation, saying that he had only revised it to make it read better and more aligned with standard practice.
The clause was approved during a city-level meeting and not by him alone, he added.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lai Jui-lung (賴瑞隆) called the KMT’s accusations “mudslinging,” as the judiciary would not have stood idly by for five years and the KMT would have acted before the previous presidential election.
Additional reporting by Wang Jung-hsiang
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