Private use of state-owned land has increased over the past seven years, despite an initiative by the National Property Administration (NPA) to reclaim public property, reports by the National Audit Office and the Legislative Yuan’s Budget Center showed.
When the NPA launched the program in 2014, the number of plots occupied by private individuals totaled 275,764, office data showed.
However, rather than falling as intended by the initiative, the number of such plots had risen to 300,292 by the end of 2019, the office said in its annual audit report of the central government.
According to the center, the number has since risen further, climbing to 314,578 plots covering 17,698.59 hectares by March.
The value of occupied land is estimated at NT$261 billion (US$9.3 billion), the center said, adding that occupants of about 20 percent of the land are not compensating the government for its use.
Amounts receivable have been rising annually, climbing by NT$315 million from 2014 to the end of last year to NT$424 million, the center said.
Nearly half of the occupied land has been in use for at least five years, making it more difficult to recover, it added.
In addition, unknown occupants are holding 25,634 plots covering 1,686.18 hectares worth a total of NT$36.623 billion, none of whom have paid compensation, the center said.
The office said the number of new occupations are to blame for the increase in the amount of occupied land, as the NPA has failed to consider that reclamations must outpace new occupations.
Furthermore, the pace of some priority reclamations has been slow, while other plots were considered repossessed without undergoing proper inspections to confirm their status, it said, adding that some have been reoccupied by a third party after repossession.
Considering all the overlapping security, environmental, legal and other concerns involving separate jurisdictions, the NPA has not taken the initiative to pursue many cases, it said, suggesting that a communication channel be established between relevant agencies to expedite the process.
The NPA said that staffing and funding limitations have constrained the scope of its repossession initiative.
It vowed to keep revising its targets and improving inspections, such as by conducting aerial patrols using drones and using satellite imaging to issue real-time notifications on new occupations.
It is also considering ranking case priority by period of occupancy, legal contraventions or other criteria, the NPA said, adding that it is focusing on the most urgent cases.
New Power Party Legislator Chen Jiau-hua (陳椒華) said that the private occupation of state-owned land is often accompanied by improper waste disposal, theft of gravel or sand, backfill pollution and other activities that have far-ranging effects on the environment.
However, due to vested interests and collusion between officials and businesses, it is difficult to enforce the law, she said, adding that the NPA does not have the expertise to identify and recover land.
For example, the NPA this year lost a lawsuit over the construction of the so-called “77 Mansion” (七七行館) for the second time due to insufficient evidence.
The case was originally brought over an estate built in 2004 on 1,465 ping (4,843m2) of public land inside Taipei’s Yangmingshan National Park by Liu Cheng-chih (劉政池), brother of former Miaoli County commissioner Liu Cheng-hung (劉政鴻).
Liu Cheng-chih had been accused of bribing park officials to approve permits with forged documents to expedite construction, which included illegally installing an underground metal cargo container and cutting down trees.
The case can be appealed.
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