Plan to get $2.5m from Townsend

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 January, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 January, 1999, 12:00am

FORMER Airport Authority chief Dr Hank Townsend will likely be asked to refund a $2.5 million gratuity after being found partly responsible for the chaotic opening of the new airport.

Authority Chief Executive Billy Lam Chung-lun said it was obliged to ask for a refund of gratuities from senior executives found to be responsible for the airport chaos, who have left the authority.

A special group has been set up to study what course of action to take against former chief executive Dr Townsend and three other officials blamed in the Commission of Inquiry on the New Airport.

Former project director Douglas Oakervee, airport management director Chern Heed and information technology director Kiron Chatterjee were also found primarily responsible for the problems in the official inquiry chaired by Mr Justice Woo Kwok-hing.

Mr Lam said on Commercial Radio yesterday the group would meet this week to discuss the gratuities paid to Mr Townsend and Mr Oakervee.

Both men left the authority late last year.

Dr Townsend returned to the United States with a $2.5 million end-of-contract gratuity, which critics said should have been withheld.

Mr Heed will leave when his contract expires next month.

'We will try to study the wordings of the report and see whether the four mentioned are guilty of any dereliction of duty and the extent; whether they have to bear any responsibility; the wordings of their contract and the relevant legal implications.' A decision would be made after two other reports on Chek Lap Kok were released.

It is understood the Legco Select Committee will release its report on the airport chaos on Wednesday.

The other report is being compiled by the Ombudsman's office.

Mr Lam also pledged to better co-ordinate work of different divisions in the future.

The study group will also look into various ways to simplify the authority's structure and to increase its accountability.

Reading out a Chinese poem, Mr Lam asked the public to forget the problems of the past and work together for a better future.