Arts hub inquiry voices 'dismay' at C.Y.'s conduct
A Legislative Council committee expressed 'dismay' and 'disappointment' in chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying for failing to handle properly a conflict-of-interest check when adjudicating an arts hub contest 10 years ago.
The findings of the inquiry into Leung's role in the 2001-02 West Kowloon reclamation concept plan competition, released yesterday, show the select committee chose words of moderate severity to comment on Leung's conduct, and rejected more severe terms such as 'regret' and 'reprimand'.
Committee chairman Ip Kwok-him read out the report's conclusion in a Legco meeting. 'The select committee considers [that Leung] did not accord sufficient attention to completing his declaration form, at which the committee expresses dismay.'
Leung had incorrectly completed a conflict-of-interest declaration form before adjudicating the contest, ticking a box that he was not a director of any company, although he was managing director of property consultancy DTZ. A Malaysian entrant was disqualified because it listed DTZ as a property adviser.
The committee report said there was a reasonable expectation on Leung, who was then convenor of the Executive Council, to endeavour to avoid possible conflicts of interest. It was 'disappointing' that Leung did not inform DTZ of his appointment as a contest juror given that two of his former colleagues provided land value data for the Malaysian entrant, it said, and found that he had 'unshirkable responsibility' in this regard.
The committee also found Leung's evidence 'inconsistent'; he at one time said it was a senior colleague who checked the company's books for him, and at another time he said the one who did so was a junior staff member.
The committee found that the two DTZ directors who dealt with the Malaysian entrant but testified that they never received any formal engagement letter were 'not credible'. However, there was no evidence Leung was told of the firm's involvement in the contest, and the committee did not notice any abnormality in Leung's voting pattern on entries.
Despite the criticisms, Leung said he felt that the report had cleared his reputation. 'The findings of the select committee prove that there was no involvement between myself and the participants of the design competition,' he said.
Leung said he would 'humbly' contemplate the findings, while adding: 'I believe the committee was not set up to propose how I should do a search in my company when I have public posts.'
The five pan-democrats in the committee proposed adding a more strongly worded statement against Leung to the report, but it was voted down. The statement said Leung had too narrow a definition of 'interests', which would not assuage the public's doubts about whether he gained any extended benefit from the contest.
Leung's lawyer had, in an unusual move, written to ask the committee to take out a piece of evidence given by the competition organiser Eric Johnson. The committee did not comply.
The 390-page report was the outcome of a four-month inquiry that started during the chief executive election. It called 17 witnesses and cost Legco HK$1.5 million.
The council will debate the report's content on July 11.