• Thu
  • Sep 18, 2014
  • Updated: 3:12am

Tall storeys

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 January, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 January, 1995, 12:00am

OUCH, here's a letter which will wipe that big cheesy grin off Anson Chan's face.

The Public Accounts Committee, that august group of legislators who monitor how the Government spends the taxpayers' cash, has issued a stinging rebuke to the chief secretary over the extraordinary case of Coda Plaza.

Readers with memories not erased by the festive period will recall that the Garden Road development grew like Jack's beanstalk from a government-agreed seven storeys to a far more lucrative 24 storeys.

But was anything done about it? In Hong Kong? You must be kidding. The construction was erected by Li Ka-shing's Hutchison Whampoa corporation, which exploited one of those loopholes that only the very rich seem to find. It was helped in this by the sleepiness of civil servants who only woke up to the case when the building was completed.

However, none of this has by-passed the eagle eye of Peter Wong Hong-yuen, chairman of the PAC. In a letter to Ms Chan he notes that the administration was not really on the ball.

Apparently, with the arrogance that power all too often bears, the Government had written to him saying, 'although the judgment of some of the officers concerned might, with hindsight, be questioned, imperfect judgment does not constitute misconduct warranting disciplinary action' and that 'there is no evidence to suggest any bad faith on the part of those involved'.

Mr Wong fumed back: 'The committee considers it dangerous for the administration to reach such a conclusion which seems to suggest that if there is no evidence of 'bad faith', then an officer's wrongdoing of whatever degree of blame will always be tolerated. You will appreciate that in reality it is extremely difficult to prove whether an officer is acting in good faith or bad faith.

'The committee is concerned that this will send the wrong message to both members of the public as well as people working in the civil service that government officials will never have to be accountable for their action.' Were they ever?


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