Missing Tamar report is still a secret

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 March, 2006, 12:00am

Officials confirm 1990 study's existence, but say Legco must make a specific request for any release

The government has released 11 documents in response to a Legislative Council request for reports on the expansion, relocation or rebuilding of government headquarters.

But a report said to conclude that relocation to the Tamar site is unnecessary is not among them.

Democratic Party chairman Lee Wing-tat called the partial disclosure unacceptable, and said he would write to the administration reiterating the demand for a full checklist of documents prepared since 1990 relating to the project. The withheld report's existence was revealed last month by the South China Morning Post. Sources said the study, begun around 1990, concluded the needs of the shrinking civil service could be met by renovating the Central Government Offices and using the maximum allowed density for the Murray Building.

The government denied such a plan existed.

However, at a briefing yesterday, government sources, when questioned about the existence of such a secret report, said that private consultants had been commissioned 16 years ago to carry out a study. But they said its focus was to assess the feasibility of soliciting private sector participation in the building of a new government headquarters.

The government sources were not forthcoming about the conclusions of the consultants' study. When asked, an official source said: 'The report recommended different options. None of them was taken up.'

It could be made available if Legco specifically requested it, providing there were no contractual restrictions on its publication, the source said.

The sources said the documents released yesterday were mostly drafted following the Town Planning Board's decision to rezone Tamar for government use in 1998.

As such, they were more relevant to the terms of Legco's request than the 16-year-old consultants' study, they said.

Among the documents are two which concluded building a new headquarters at Tamar would deliver adequate office space four years sooner than if the existing office buildings were redeveloped.

The new headquarters planned for the site of the naval shipyard in Admiralty will be 26 to 32 storeys high, have nearly 70,000 square metres of office space and cost $4.9 billion. It will house the 3,000 civil servants working in the Central Government Offices and Murray Building.

In Beijing, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen reiterated that the plan to build at the Tamar site would provide extra job opportunities for the construction sector and offer a stimulus to the economy.

'We will certainly step up efforts to lobby the lawmakers, particularly those from friendly parties such as the DAB,' he said. The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong favours relocating the headquarters to Kai Tak.

Officials yesterday ducked a Legco question about whether redevelopment of the existing government sites would generate the same number of jobs for the construction industry as building a new headquarters.

They also claimed that no detailed estimates had been made of how much the redevelopment would cost.

Construction at Tamar was expected to begin by the middle of next year, government sources said.