Taiwan county to blame for oil scandal, says magistrate

TAIPEI - Pingtung Magistrate Tsao Chi-hung yesterday for the first time said that the Pingtung County Government should apologise to the public as it had been careless in handling the recent tainted edible oil scandal. Tsao told a press conference that his county government was not vigilant when inspecting the oil manufacturers, stressing that he will accept the public's criticism and bear responsibility.

The magistrate said Pingtung's Public Health Bureau (PHB) in 2010 already received a citizen's report accusing Kuo Lieh-cheng of running an unlicensed oil factory and that his oil products had been sold to domestic cooking oil companies.

Local Government 'inept'

Tsao said Kuo told the PHB that his products were sold to animal feed companies, but the officials could not confirm his claims as they were "not allowed" to enter Kuo's factory for inspection. The magistrate said this shows that the county government officials are "slightly" inept when it comes to inspections, noting that his county government will use microdrones to collect the evidence in the future.

Commentators criticised that Tsao, as the magistrate of Pingtung County, has been intentionally avoiding explaining the incident to the public in person. Instead, it was the Pingtung deputy magistrate and health officials who responded to the oil scandal.

In response, Tsao said he did not intentionally avoid his responsibility to the public.

He said he feels bad that the oil scandal took place in his county, stressing that, however, he will not criticise the central government for this incident.

Tsao said despite the fact that his county government does not have enough food inspectors, he knows that the Pingtung County Government has no excuse for its incompetence.

The most important thing at the moment is that the central government should work with local governments to prevent similar incidents from occurring again in the future, Tsao said.

KMT's Response

The Kuomintang's (KMT) Pingtung office yesterday went to the Pingtung District Prosecutors Office (PDPO) and pressed charges against Tsao, Pingtung Deputy Magistrate Chung Chia-pin and other officials for allegedly neglecting their duties over the oil scandal. KMT Pingtung office chief Chang Ya-ping said the recent oil scare took place because the county government failed to properly inspect the oil companies.

Chien Tai-lan, the KMT's candidate for Pingtung magistrate, lashed out at Tsao by saying that he should be responsible for letting Pingtung become the "hometown of waste edible oil." Chien further said that the oil incident has been revealed for over one week yet Tsao has not come up with any feasible solutions to solve the problem.