By Lee Tae-hoon
The Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) will investigate local governments that are under criticism for constructing high-cost luxury municipal buildings, BAI officials said Thursday.
The BAI launched a task force Wednesday for a preliminary investigation into 24 provincial governments, including Seongnam City in Gyeonggi Province, the officials said.
Seongnam has been under criticism for spending 320 billion won ($277 million) to construct an 11-story city hall.
"Included on the list are 12 local governments that have completed construction of a municipal building since 2007 and those currently constructing one," said Jang Tae-beom, a senior BAI official.
The official said Anyang, which is planning to build a 100-story building to house the municipal administration, is excluded from the list because the local government has yet to commence construction.
Jang said the BAI will undertake two rounds of investigations based on ongoing preliminary studies after the Lunar New Year holiday from Feb. 13 to 15.
"The probe will focus on two areas -- whether the buildings meet energy efficiency standards and whether their office space per public servant is more than the maximum size allowed under the law," he said.
On Wednesday, President Lee Myung-bak also criticized local governments for building large, luxurious offices at a time when the central government is stepping up efforts to save energy.
"The least energy efficient buildings constructed by several local governments show that there is little understanding of the time we are in," President Lee said during a meeting to discuss "green growth" at Cheong Wa Dae.
Controversy over local administrations' plush municipal buildings erupted late last year.
Last November, President Lee said, "I want to destroy the luxurious buildings and build new ones, if possible, to improve energy efficiency."