Officials face grilling over card-playing row

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 February, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 February, 1999, 12:00am

Senior municipal officials will be among the targets of an inquiry into the scandal of night-shift workers caught playing cards during office hours.

Provisional urban councillors, outraged by the Urban Services Department's refusal to discuss its investigation, yesterday voted to launch their own probe.

The scandal broke after some councillors conducted a surprise blitz last week at the department's Mongkok depot.

The councillors said they saw some night-shift sewermen responsible for clearing drains playing cards, sleeping, or leaving the depot after clearing a drain outside their office.

Repeated demands by councillors for an explanation at yesterday's full council meeting were stonewalled by officials.

Deputy Director of Urban Services Michael Arnold told them it was impossible to give a report as an internal investigation was under way.

Assistant Director Chow Loi said: 'It is natural the workers cleared the drain [in the depot] because their job is to clear drains. They might also want to test their tools before going out to work.' But the council's chairman, Dr Ronald Leung Ding-bong, said: 'No one would accept this absurd explanation, even if he was uneducated, and we councillors are all well-educated.' He proposed a separate probe. Frontline workers, supervisors, and department directorate officers might be summoned to answer questions.

A select committee chaired by councillor Kam Nai-wai is being set up. It will look into the scandal, monitor the department's probe, and make recommendations in two months, said Dr Leung.

It is expected to meet for the first time this week. Preparatory works on membership and terms of reference started yesterday.

The department's Principal Legal Officer, Ada Chung Lai-ling, said councillors had the power to set up a committee but they could not impose punishment.