Chen wasting funds: legislator

MUDSLINGING?:In the latest allegation leveled at the first family, KMT Legislator Wu Yu-sheng said the president had spent NT$60 million on a luxurious personal gym

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Wed, Jul 26, 2006 - Page 3

A legislator yesterday accused President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) of appropriating public money to build "luxury" fitness facilities for his personal use in the grounds of the presidential residence.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) made the accusations at a press conference, saying that the charges were based on information from a member of staff at the Presidential Office who didn't want to be identified.

"It's an 8m-high white building, 2m of which is underground and 6m above ground. The facility covers an area of 310 ping (1,023m2), with the building itself covering 180 ping. It cost NT$60 million (US$1.83 million) in total," Wu said.

Wu said that the facility included a swimming pool and a "luxurious" gym, but he didn't produce any pictures or other evidence at the press conference.

The legislator said that the building was originally used as a dormitory accommodating about 200 police officers that were stationed at the president's Yushan Residence.

Wu alleged that it was the first lady's idea to build the pool and the gym and that the Presidential Office had used the National Security Bureau's budget to build it.

"It took one year to construct the facility and two police sergeants from the bureau who had been tasked with monitoring its progress were then designated to teach the president how to swim," Wu said.

He said that the bureau had not applied to the Taipei City Government for a building permit because it did not want people outside of the Presidential Office to know about the facility.

Wu said that even though the president had spent so much of the nation's money on his personal fitness and had forced 200 police officers tasked with guarding his residence to relocate to a temporary dormitory, he didn't actually make good use of the fitness facilities.

"My informant told me that the president only used the pool in the first four months after it was completed. The pool has not been used since last September," he said.

Wu said that his informant disclosed the matter because he thought the president should open the pool to children, especially those with disabilities.

The Presidential Office issued a statement last night saying that Wu's accusations were groundless.

"The `gym' Wu referred to is a training facility for security officials and does not include a swimming pool. The facility cost NT$10 million to construct, not NT$60 million," the statement said.

The statement added that the Yushan officers had moved to a temporary facility because their dormitory was being renovated.