Gov’t defends minister in housemate scandal

By Stephanie Chao, The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The Executive Yuan on Wednesday denied dropping Agriculture Minister Tsao Chi-hung from his post over his alleged involvement in a conflict of interest.

Tsao’s sharing of his government-provided residential compound with three female aides has been cited by local media as a key reason why he was replaced in a recent Cabinet reshuffle. Cabinet spokesman Hsu Kuo-yung said Tsao’s replacement was not tied to the living arrangements in any way, adding that the former minister’s actions had been legal. A report by Next Magazine said that three of Tsao’s aides from his tenure as Pingtung County Magistrate moved into his ministry residence when he assumed the post of agricultural chief. The report also alleged that Tsao’s removal stemmed not only from living with his aides, but also that he was not living with his wife.

Tsao had been seen arriving to work at the Council of Agriculture accompanied by the three aides in a government vehicle, according to the magazine.

The claims raised controversies over utilities and other costs being footed by the ministry. In response, the COA said it would not make statements concerning the “private matter” but added that the minister and aides resided on different floors of the compound. In addition, the council said, the aides were paying rent amounting to several thousand New Taiwan dollars per month. Tsao did not respond to telephone calls. Regarding the residence, Hsu said that the COA had legally refurnished the second floor to accommodate employees. Tsao was replaced today by Lin Tsung-hsien (林聰賢) in a Cabinet reshuffle that replaced the heads of three other ministries. New Chiefs Contested