More time needed on land misuse inquiry

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 April, 2007, 12:00am

A Legislative Council committee is still working on a report about rural leader Daniel Heung Cheuk-kei's unauthorised conversion of a warehouse on government land into a luxury villa.

Sources familiar with the Public Accounts Committee's deliberations said legislators needed more information and were not yet ready to consider what recommendations to make.

The Audit Commission issued a report in November, in which it criticised the Lands Department for its lax monitoring of abuses of short-term tenancies and for allowing rent arrears on them to reach HK$163 million last year.

The commission's investigation followed the revelation last year that Mr Heung, a cousin of Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and a qualified architect, had not been stripped of his lease despite turning a warehouse in Sha Tin into a private residence and receiving eight warnings since 1984 about his misuse of the site.

The Legco committee has held only one open hearing about the report. The committee's report had been expected in February, but members said then that they needed more time.

The committee said: 'To allow itself more time to consider the various issues pointed out in the Director of Audit's report and the additional information provided by the witnesses, the committee has decided to defer a full report on this subject.'

Yesterday a source said: 'The committee members are very serious so it needs more time to study the issue; and their study covers the administration of short-term tenancies as a whole rather than just focusing on Mr Heung.'

The last time the committee deferred submitting a report on the Director of Audit's investigation was in July. That report, about the collection of fines imposed by magistrates, was submitted in February.

Philip Wong Yu-hong, the committee's chairman, would not comment on the investigations.

'You know we are not allowed to disclose anything concerning the Public Accounts Committee,' he said.