Sacrificing public interest for profit
The Taipei City Government has an inescapable responsibility to address the
corruption scandal involving the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Xiaobitan Station
Joint Development project after two former officials from Taipei City’s
Department of Rapid Transit Systems (DORTS) were detained last week on suspicion
of profiting alongside the developer.
The two Joint Development Office executives are suspected of forging a property
value estimation document that would underestimate the Taipei City Government’s
stake in the construction project, known as the MeHAS City (美河市) project, in New
Taipei City’s (新北市) Sindian District (新店).
The document overestimated the stake of the developer, Radium Life Tech Co,
which cost the city government an estimated NT$10 billion (US$333 million).
The large-scale apartment complex project began in 2006 when President Ma Ying-jeou
(馬英九) was Taipei mayor.
The developer has profited more than NT$6 billion from the project since its
completion last year.
The MeHAS project is one of many joint development projects launched by the
DORTS in which the department cooperated with private developers to build
residential complexes near MRT stations.
In another joint development project at the MRT’s Neihu Station, the apartment
complex constructed near the station is valued at approximately NT$4.8 million
per ping (3.31m2) and the developer is expected to make a profit of more than
The Control Yuan last month reprimanded the DORTS for its problematic handling
of the Neihu Station development project, as it used most of the acquired land
for apartment complex development, rather than for the MRT station as it had
The Taipei City government had aimed to boost the economy and bring in revenues
for the city with the projects. However, the projects have turned out to be a
way for large corporations to profit.
The DORTS’ Joint Development Office handles joint development projects at all
MRT lines, and as the communication channel between the city government and
private investors, the office has been accused of involvement in various
corruption scandals related to profitable projects.
In response to the latest scandal surrounding MeHAS, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin
(郝龍斌) said the project was launched under Ma’s mayoral term, while reiterating
that the city government will issue severe punishments to any civil servant who
is found guilty in the case.
This statement shows the city government’s irresponsibility and disregard for
the public interest. It failed to monitor joint development projects involving
millions of dollars and further allowed private investors to make huge profits
from construction funded by the public.
Both the local and central governments were aware of tactics to seize privately
owned land for low prices under the guise of public construction projects while
profiting large corporations.
The Ma administration and the city government have seen their credibility
diminish over these public construction projects, regardless of whether the
large corporations made their profits legally.
They will continue to lose public trust and support if there are more incidents
that serve big conglomerates and sacrifice public interests.