MOE, lawmakers row over school reorganization

The China Post staff

Criminal elements and members of the Legislative Yuan have become involved in the reorganization of the private Jin Wen Institute of Technology’s board of directors, lawmakers claimed yesterday. The Ministry of Education dissolved the original board earlier this year after allegations surfaced that Jin Wen Group head Chang Wan-lee, who also acted as chairman of the board, had made away with huge amounts of the school’s money. An election to create a new board to manage the school is set to be held in the coming weeks. But at a meeting of the Legislative Yuan’s committee on education yesterday, People First Party’s Lee Ching-an warned that some of her colleagues have been pressuring education officials over the case and called on Education Minister Ovid Tzeng to stand his ground. Tzeng acknowledged that some lawmakers, including the Kuomintang’s Lin Ming-i, Mu Min-chu, Hung Hsiu-chu, and independent Lo Fu-chu have expressed their “concern” about the handling of the case.

As an example, he told of how Mu had come to see him with one of the institute’s directors to ask him to hold off a review of the school’s books for a day. Tzeng added that he thought the entire incident was a little strange. Such comments brought an immediate denial from Mu, who said that the education minister was talking nonsense. That barrage prompted Tzeng to point out that he had never said the lawmaker had tried to influence his ministry’s investigation. Meanwhile, the Democratic Progressive Party’s Chen Ching-chun claimed that criminal elements have issued threats to education officials and the minister himself in an attempt to influence the make-up of the school’s new board of directors. Tzeng assured him, however, that he had not received any pressure or threatening phone calls. The education minister went on to say that he had the courage to handle the reorganization of Jin Wen Institute of Technology. He did, however, ask that lawmakers support him in his efforts. Lee then took advantage of a committee recess to present evidence to Tzeng that she claimed proved that seats on the board of directors of the school had been available for a price. A contract apparently signed by Jin Wen’s former chairman, Chang Wan-lee, and another director recorded the sale of two seats on the board for NT$50 million, Lee said. Lee went on to claim that similar allegations had already been made to the Ministry of Education but that officials there had buried them. Tzeng responded by saying that he had not heard any such charges. However he did say that seats on a school’s board of directors could not be bought and sold. Tzeng promised to take a look at the document and make sure that the allegations were looked into. According to observers, the alleged sale could have been an attempt by Chang to raise cash to cover losses on investments he had made in Vietnam. Chang is thought to have fled the country for Canada after borrowing huge sums of money from Jin Wen employees, parents of students, and even the school itself.