Next chief's fancy suites will need explaining
New curbs on lavish travel spending by the chief executive will compel officials to explain if lower-grade hotel suites are not been chosen for future duty trips, lawmakers were told yesterday.
Professor Gabriel Leung, the outgoing director of the Chief Executive's Office, gave details of the new guidelines when addressing a joint meeting of the Legislative Council's panels on commerce, industry and economic development.
The guidelines were drawn up in light of the controversy over Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's lavish hotel expenses on official trips abroad. The Audit Commission found he had stayed in plush hotel rooms without good reason, and that his office had no internal rules to govern the choice of accommodation.
The proposed new guidelines would be given to the office of chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying, before he takes office on Sunday, Professor Leung said.
The audit found that, of the 49 nights of hotel accommodation paid for by the Hong Kong government over the past five years, Tsang stayed in a superior suite on 41 of them.
The new rules would require the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices to consider six criteria when deciding which suites to recommend to the Chief Executive's Office. They include any sponsorship of accommodation by a host, organisation or country, and the nature of the facilities and design of the room.
'We will see if [the suite] can be used to hold meetings with the press, local officials and important persons in the political and economic sectors,' Leung said. 'In case of emergencies, say the outbreak of Sars in Hong Kong in 2003 and swine flu in 2009, and [if the chief executive] was ... abroad - he would need an emergency control centre.'
Other considerations, Leung said, were security, diplomatic protocol to reflect Hong Kong's status, auxiliary facilities required - such as telecommunication services - and a complete quotation of prices from hotels.
Under the plan, the Chief Executive's Office would post on its website a record of its spending on duty visits every quarter. The office would have to explain in more detail how a trip benefitted Hong Kong, Leung said.
Democrat Kam Nai-wai said the criteria should include taking the public's feelings into consideration.
Leung agreed, saying he expected the next administration to give high weighting to it when choosing accommodation.