Third inquiry into airport launched

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 July, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 July, 1998, 12:00am

A third inquiry has been announced into the chaos at Chek Lap Kok airport with the Ombudsman wading in to find out if officials were responsible.

An independent review using overseas experts was announced by Chief Secretary for Administration Anson Chan Fang On-sang on Friday and the same day legislators vowed to launch their own investigation if they were not happy with the outcome of the official probe.

But Ombudsman Andrew So Kwok-wing said yesterday there was initial evidence of maladministration by officials causing or contributing to the failures and an urgent inquiry by his office was necessary.

The decision was attacked as premature by Executive Councillor Chung Sze-yuen who said the Government appointees should be given a chance to report first.

'People should discuss [the incident] only when they are not satisfied with the inquiry results. So many investigations will mean many people are asking the same questions at the same time,' he said.

Mr So said he had received five complaints so far but the trouble at the airport, which inconvenienced tens of thousands of passengers and cost cargo handlers millions in its first week, was also serious enough to merit starting his own action.

He said it was 'unprecedentedly quick' to initiate an investigation into a specific case in less than a week.

Mr So will lead an eight-strong investigation team.

Investigators checked the airport on its opening day without informing the Airport Authority as is customary practice and then gave the operators a list of questions last Wednesday.

Details on preparation, co-ordination and management of airport operations as well as the causes of the problems were being sought 'urgently'.

The Airport Authority has promised answers within 10 days and Mr So will then decide the full terms of reference for the inquiry though it will not recommend top officials be fired.

'The purpose of the investigation is to try to find solutions but not to find culprits,' he said.