Urbco row over stadium gala
By SO LAI-FUN
URBAN Councillors yesterday called for the supervisory body of the new Hong Kong Stadium to be more accountable to the council to prevent further possible misuses of public money.
Their move came after councillors claimed they had been forced to endorse $5 million for an extravagant laser performance because an oral agreement had already been made between the monitoring body, the board of governors, and a performer.
The March 11 gala event, costing $10 million, was the most controversial item on the three-day opening programme, of which the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club will pay half of the expenses.
On a recommendation of the club, the gala will include a 50-minute spectacular sound and laser show by Jean Michel Jarre.
An organisation committee - formed last May and comprising the club and the stadium's board of governors, a monitoring body of seven councillors - had issued a letter of intention and made an oral agreement with Jarre before getting council approval.
Previously, Urbco was forced to approve $175 million of the stadium's fitting out cost because 75 per cent of the contracts had been let and agreed to by the board of governors.
The gala proposal sparked off a furious debate among councillors, some of whom questioned the need for a ''Rolls-Royce class'' ceremony. Others said it was worth it because it would be the first of its kind in Hong Kong.
It was finally endorsed in a vote of 17 to three after a two-hour debate. But 12 members abstained from voting. They said they doubted the necessity of such an extravagant ceremony, but could not risk the compensation incurred by breaking the agreement if they rejected the proposal.
Meeting Point's Fred Li Wah-ming, among the three who opposed the plan, said the board of governors appeared to have acted in haste without providing adequate information to the council.
''The board is supposed to be accountable to the council,'' Mr Li said.
He said he was considering putting a formal question asking whether the board of governors had fulfilled its responsibility to monitor the whole project.
He would also push the board for a clear financial planning of the stadium to prevent any further possible misuse of public money.
According to the terms of reference of the board of governors, it could ''exercise the powers and functions of the council relating to all matters pertaining to the management of the Hong Kong Stadium''.
This includes the stadium's budgets, operating plans, and approval of major contracts.
Another opponent of the funding plan, Wong Siu-yee, accused the supervisory board of being ''led by the nose'' by the club.
''The whole project was largely dominated by the club's will, and the board of governors just listened to what it said,'' he said.