Donald Tsang

Chiefs' $800,000 riot of colour

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 September, 2005, 12:00am

Flower deliveries for the three official residences 'necessary'

More than $800,000 of taxpayers' money will be spent on flowers for the residences of the chief executive and the chief secretary over the next two years, the Sunday Morning Post has learned.

This includes $134,400 for a consultant to provide flower arrangement services once a week.

The flowers are supplied by Yee Ka Flower Shop in Prince Edward, while Blooms 'N Blossoms - which is believed to be owned by relatives of tycoon Cheng Yu-tung - provides on-site flower arrangement.

News of the floral arrangements follows the revelation that Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's spent $300,000 from the public coffers for a fish pond at Government House.

The leaders' flower bill totals $839,867, which covers the supply of cut flowers and foliage to Mr Tsang's official residence at Government House, his weekend retreat at Fanling Lodge, and Victoria House - the official residence of the chief secretary.

Under a two-year contract, flowers are delivered every week to the three residences, regardless of whether Mr Tsang or Rafael Hui Si-yan are present. Mr Hui has indicated he will stay at his rented premises at Leighton Hill.

Officials say the flowers are necessary to preserve the dignity of the official homes of Hong Kong's leader and his second-in-command, but the bill drew criticism from legislator Lee Cheuk-yan, of the Confederation of Trade Unions.

'That's quite a lot of money for flowers,' Mr Lee said. 'Why would they need new flowers every week when there are no guests? Even if it was absolutely necessary, they could make do with cheaper ones.'

The contracts were renewed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department in November and December last year under an open tender process posted on the government website, when Mr Tsang was still chief secretary. Officials would not say how many years the contracts have been in force.

They were not included in previous figures released by the government on the cost of running the chief executive's residences - which runs to $3.87 million for Government House and $470,000 for Fanling Lodge. No figures are available for Victoria House.

A spokeswoman for the Chief Executive's Office said the flowers were needed for decorative purposes in the event of an official reception for dignitaries and foreign leaders from time to time, but flowers were delivered regularly regardless of any event being held.

'The three places, being the official residences, need suitable decorations to reflect the dignity of the places,' she said.