The New Power Party (NPP) yesterday accused former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator Yen Kuan-heng (顏寬恆) in 2016 of abusing his power by removing the legal hurdles to his family securing a 20-year lease of the No. 105 wharf in the Port of Taichung.
Yen is the KMT’s candidate in a legislative by-election in Taichung’s second electoral district on Jan. 9 next year, following the recall of then-Taiwan Statebuilding Party legislator Chen Po-wei (陳柏惟) last month.
NPP deputy caucus whip Chen Jiau-hua (陳椒華) told a news conference that the No. 105 wharf is a strategically important infrastructure and the Taiwan International Port Co should ensure that it does not become a national security loophole by allowing a “corrupt” local faction leader like Yen to use it.
On Tuesday, Wu Pei-yun (吳佩芸), deputy executive director of the NPP’s Taichung headquarters, challenged Yen to a debate about the matter.
She accused Yen of initially stopping the port company from operating the dock itself in 2015.
Due to Yen’s persistent meddling in the project, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications in 2016 revised the management plan for the No. 105 wharf and opted to outsource its operation to a contractor through a public tender, Wu said.
Although Yen’s family company failed to obtain the contract during the public tender in 2018, a warehousing firm that is 50 percent owned by the Yen family secured the contract in another tender last year, Wu added.
Separately, at a meeting of the legislature’s Transportation Committee yesterday, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) said that Yen not only questioned the port operator’s management about the matter during a committee meeting at the time, but also proposed motions to freeze the company’s budget.
He asked the company if it was pressured by Yen to change the management plan for the wharf when he was a legislator or if it was asked to brief the plan in Yen’s office.
The port company denied that the wharf management plan was changed because of pressure from Yen, but that he did ask the company’s management to go to his office to explain the project’s details to him.
Minister of Transportation and Communications Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) said that the operation was outsourced in accordance with the Commercial Port Law (商港法), and that no major administrative flaw was found in the tender process last year.
However, more information about the operations at the wharf from September 2016 to last year is needed, he said.
Port of Taichung president Sean Lu (盧展猷) said that the wharf was built exclusively for the storage of coal, adding that the facility would help reduce air pollution generated at the port.
“We originally planned to manage the wharf ourselves. However, we decided to outsource the management of the wharf to a private stevedore operator to avoid criticism that the government was competing for profit with the private sector. The Dockworkers’ Union in Taichung supported the proposal of having a private contractor manage the wharf,” he said.
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