Punishment sought for piling blunder

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 February, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 February, 2003, 12:00am

A legislator will press his colleagues to demand punishment for two officials found at fault in a report into a piling scandal.

Lawmakers meet on Wednesday to discuss the findings of a two-year inquiry which concluded that the substandard piling of some government-subsidised housing blocks was the result of unrealistic production targets and insufficient monitoring.

Frederick Fung Kin-kee, chairman of the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood, believes lawmakers should take the opportunity to censure senior officials implicated.

The main political parties that took part in the inquiry have agreed to leave to the government any decision to punish retired housing chief Dominic Wong Shing-wah and former director of housing Tony Miller.

In a Legco select committee report last month, Mr Wong was criticised for failing to set realistic production targets, while Mr Miller was deemed to have not sufficiently dealt with the risks involved.

But the pair escaped punishment or censure, although Legco passed a no-confidence motion in June 2000 against Mr Miller and former Housing Authority chairman Rosanna Wong Yick-ming for the blunders.

Mr Fung, a housing expert, said he would amend the motion and require the council to condemn Mr Wong and Mr Miller as well as demand punishment.

'I don't understand why the [criticism in the report] is even weaker than the no-confidence motion,' said Mr Fung.

He suggested that Mr Wong's pension, estimated to be $70,000 a month, be cut heavily, and that Mr Miller, who is now permanent secretary for financial services, be barred from promotion.

The scandal surfaced after several Housing Authority buildings in Sha Tin, Tin Shui Wai and Tung Chung were found to have substandard piling. Some blocks were later demolished.

A government inquiry and two further investigations in 2000 directed blame at frontline staff but cleared senior officials of responsibility. An outcry in the legislature prompted Legco's own inquiry.

The Legco report found housing production targets set before the handover were unrealistic.

The scandal has been cited as one of the reasons behind the introduction of the ministerial system, which aims to make officials more accountable.

However, Mr Fung's campaign is unlikely to win broad support. Some lawmakers say the proposed amendment deviates from the consensus of the parties involved in the inquiry.

Liberal Party legislator and select committee member Howard Young said the motion, which asks members to only endorse the report, had been worded in a neutral way to allow for a free debate.

'The amendment goes further than what the parties in the inquiry have agreed upon. This is disrespectful to the collective wisdom of those who spent two years on the deliberations.'