Wu Ching-chin 吳景欽
（Wu Ching-chin is an associate professor, chair of Aletheia University’s law department and director of Taiwan Forever Association／作者為真理大學法律系副教授兼系主任、永社理事）
Translated by Ethan Zhan
TAIPEI TIMES / Editorials 2015.01.25
The Clean Government Commission (廉政委員會) — set up by the Taipei City Government to investigate major public construction projects undertaken by the city government — has been termed a “political witchhunt” by former Taipei mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌).
However, cases under review, including the Taipei Dome, the Taipei Twin Towers and the MeHAS City projects have not only attracted controversy for a long time, they have also seen interventions from the Control Yuan. That raises the question: Is Hau’s criticism valid?
Article 18 of the Government Procurement Act (政府採購法) stipulates that government tendering procedures for procurement include open, selective and limited tendering procedures. However, the act puts strict limits on the latter two. Therefore, open tendering procedures should be the norm and the selective and limited tendering options should only be used when there is no alternative.
Despite the provisions of the act, when a project is opened to public tender, companies are still able to borrow licenses and permits to enable participation in a bidding procedure or rig a bid.
They could also bribe government officials to obtain key information — such as on the price floor or review committee members. Such actions are not rare, especially in cases of limited tendering procedures, which are neither public nor transparent, and under which it is the authorities that invite companies to take part in the bidding process.
In this process, agreements that are reached behind closed doors and benefit a select few are likely to happen.
This defeats the purpose of the act, which is intended to make open tendering procedures the norm. When authorities make the decision to use a limited tendering procedure, the officials in charge have the opportunity to choose favorites which allows corrupt officials to profit from deals.
The legality of public construction tendering cannot be solely determined by formalities, but must be determined by looking at what takes place.
This is why a review of some of Taipei’s most important and lucrative tendering cases will show that some companies received special dispensation from the city government. If officials in charge of the projects are found to have received benefits or political contributions from any of the bidding companies, they can, according to Article 4 of the Anti-Corruption Act (貪污治最條例), be punished for acts that violate their official duties by life imprisonment.
Even if the commission does not find or cannot prove that officials have received unlawful gains from a company, if they clearly violate the law, Article 6 of the act stipulates that for attempted influence peddling they can be sentenced to a prison term of not less than five years.
Although many of Taipei’s controversial construction projects caused great losses to the national treasury, criminal offenses have been difficult to prove because the truth was kept hidden for a long period when a certain political party was in power. Fortunately, there has finally been a change in leadership at Taipei City Hall and the new administration has set up the Clean Government Commission to investigate controversial projects.
However, time has passed and evidence might have disappeared. Many projects have also passed through the hands of several different Taipei mayors. In addition, the commission does not have judicial investigative powers. This means that it could take a long time to reveal any irregularities that could lie dormant within these public construction projects.