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10 government officials suspected of graft in Hsinchu stadium saga

NT$40 million for drainage disappeared from construction budget, field now repeatedly floods

The Hsinchu Baseball Stadium. (CNA photo)

The Hsinchu Baseball Stadium. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The latest development in the ongoing Hsinchu Baseball Stadium construction saga has revealed that senior government officials neglected their responsibilities, and the contractors, Chuchia Construction (巨佳營造) and AECOM (艾奕康), may face criminal lawsuits for failing to build the stadium to the required specifications.

On Wednesday (March 1) Mirror Media published the results of a preliminary report from the Hsinchu City Government's Department of Civil Service Ethics detailing an investigation into the stadium’s construction. The report said that the stadium's waterlogging problems were the result of contractors failing to meet construction standards previously agreed to by both parties.

A NT$40.9 million (US$1.34 million) drainage budget was reportedly covertly removed from the plans, but the officials in charge of overseeing the budget ignored this. The report named more than 10 officials suspected of having acted in neglect of their duties, the highest level official being the current Deputy Minister of the Interior Wu Tang-an (吳堂安).

In addition to the substandard drainage work, it was also discovered that the main contractor for the project, Chuchia Construction, failed to adhere to the soil thickness requirements stipulated in the contract tendered by Hsinchu City Government in 2018. Within the past few days, the Hsinchu City Government excavated the stadium’s soil and discovered the major deficiency.

According to Mirror Media, the city government will not rule out further excavation to determine whether contractors had breached the Waste Disposal Act, or whether civil servants had committed fraud. The Hsinchu District Prosecutors Office is carrying out a separate independent investigation and will determine whether either the construction supervisor AECOM or the construction company Chuchia Construction has civil liability for the failures.

To make matters worse, the report detailed an apparent ongoing pattern of industrial safety failures by Chuchia Construction. The government officials responsible for the company's safety record reportedly neglected to do so, allowing the company to win the contract despite its poor record.

The Wei Chuan Dragons, the team for whom the stadium was constructed, have not yet been able to use the stadium, and are expected to bring legal action against the Hsinchu City Government over the incident, according to Mirror Media. A letter was sent from the team’s management to the city government in August last year requesting compensation for the ongoing delays to the stadium’s completion, and a suspension of the lease, but an agreement has not been reached.

Hsinchu City Government Spokesperson Shih Shu-ting (施淑婷) said that the request for suspension of the lease does not amount to a termination of the lease. In response, the Dragon’s said that "the relevant matters are all negotiated between (our club) and the city government."