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United Daily News: Corrupt water officials tormenting people

2012/08/19 17:15:03

It has been only three years since Typhoon Morakot devastated parts of southern Taiwan, but now comes news that 14 flood control projects that the government has spent over NT$16 billion (US$533.65 million) on could turn out to be constructed on the cheap using shoddy materials.

Prosecutors have taken high-level water officials into custody for allegedly engaging in bid rigging, jerry-building and giving and taking bribes of money, food and sex.

It is not the first time high level officials from the Water Resources Agency's river management offices have been taken into custody on bribery charges. What needs to be reviewed is the design and approval of a mechanism that allows officials to steal.

Rather than demanding changes in office culture, it is better to correct the system. Currently, flaws allow water officials to both set the specifications for projects and be the ones to check and approve such projects.

The government should fully examine the number of other agencies plagued by similar flaws.

Typhoon Morakot was the worst natural disaster to hit Taiwan since the Sept. 21 earthquake of 1999. It has taught the Taiwanese the important lesson that river management has to cover the entire river basin, from source to rivermouth.

Right now, however, the authorities are only carrying out construction projects to prevent or reduce flooding in downstream areas, and water officials have engaged in corrupt behavior shamelessly. How can they face the people?

Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau has forecast that at least three to four more typhoons will hit Taiwan this year if the "El Nino" effect continues. The fight against natural disasters must not depend on the gods or luck, but on fully prepared prevention work.

The fact that there are factors in the administrative system that induce officials to engage in illegal activity is intolerable in a civilized country or a country that upholds honesty and uprightness. The matter should be treated seriously. (Editorial abstract--Aug. 19, 2012)

(By Christie Chen)