PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 September, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 September, 2002, 12:00am

FIRING LINE: Frederick Ma yesterday declined to apologise to the public for his role in the fiasco, saying he was up to the job and confident he would do well in the future.

The Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury has endured a baptism of fire in his first three months in the post, attracting heavy criticism for his handling of the penny-stocks affair. He was cleared by the investigation panel of failing in the discharge of his responsibilities, although the report said he lacked experience and faced a steep learning curve.

While refusing to apologise, Mr Ma did concede that he lacked experience in dealing with lawmakers who last month criticised his performance when he faced a special Legco panel meeting on the debacle.

'The report said I had not failed in discharging my responsibilities,' he said when he faced 100 reporters at the Central Government Offices. 'This is my third month in the job. I can assure all of you that I have done my very best to improve my work and I'm confident that I'll do very well in future.'

During the affair, Mr Ma was forced to admit that he had not read the penny-stocks document which was sent to his office soon after the consultation was launched in July.

The inquiry panel, having examined Mr Ma's engagement diary, concluded 'the secretary clearly had a very full plate'. It added that a steep learning curve 'plus things going wrong when the secretary was still inexperienced in his post contributed to the distressing encounter with the Legco panel'.