HK$10m refit for Government House
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying will spend at least HK$9.95 million of taxpayers' money to renovate his new home, the Government House on Upper Albert Road, before moving in in the autumn.
The amount will cover, among other things, a full-scale replacement of rooftop tiles and 'other scheduled maintenance and refurbishment' to preserve the 157-year-old colonial mansion and 'rectify major defects', the Chief Executive's Office told the South China Morning Post.
'The Architectural Services Department is now working on the interior alteration and improvement proposals for Government House for the chief executive and his family having regard to the modest and conservative principles,' the office said in a statement. 'Since these works are in design stage, the cost estimate is not yet available.'
Lawmakers have urged Leung's administration to be 'transparent' in releasing details of the renovations - alterations that might be vetoed or curtailed by the Antiquities Authority, as the Government House has been declared a monument since 1995.
Leung's office said the roof tiles were last given a major overhaul in 1979, and subsequent piecemeal repairs could no longer contain 'acute' water seepage.
Authorities dovetailed the timing of these works with the change of term of the chief executive as the maintenance 'will cause great inconvenience to the occupants', said Leung's office.
Leung, who took office on July 1, still lives in his HK$500 million Peel Rise residence, which has remained controversial for the chief executive due to its unauthorised and illegal structures.
The work at Government House began this month and is expected to be completed before the year ends, the office said.
'The maintenance works, interior alterations and improvement proposals are minor works items funded under the Architectural Services Department's block vote allocations, which are approved by the Finance Committee on a lump sum basis annually,' the office said.
Fred Li Wah-ming, an outgoing Democratic Party lawmaker, said: 'The government should be transparent and tell the public what specific works are involved. The works should not be luxurious and unnecessary works should be avoided.'
In 2005, former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen came under fire for spending HK$14.5 million from the public purse to renovate the official residence, in particular a fish pond that cost HK$300,000.
At that time, the government was also criticised for bypassing the Finance Committee on the expenditure as spending on individual items did not exceed the threshold of HK$15 million. The cap was raised to HK$21 million in 2007.
Former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa spent HK$10 million in 1997 on refitting the kitchens at the residence, which he did not live in.