Doubts 'clarified' in tourism row

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 December, 2007, 12:00am

A former human resources chief at the Hong Kong Tourism Board testified yesterday that she had dropped her concerns about an extravagant medical insurance plan for then executive director Clara Chong Ming-wah after being told that the chairman had agreed to it.

Brenda Chan said she expressed her doubts about such a plan to Grace Lee Chan Ka-yan, who was her supervisor and Ms Chong's deputy. But in an e-mail reply to her in mid-2004, Mrs Lee said approval had been given by then chairman Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee.

'Mrs Lee, orally and in writing, told me that special approval was given by the chairman to take out the medical plan,' Ms Chan said.

'In the middle of July, when I received the e-mail, I felt that the message was very clear and was in line with the information that I had been receiving all along. The doubts had been clarified, and there was no need to seek further clarification.'

Ms Chan is the star witness at the Legislative Council's public accounts committee hearings into the board's medical insurance saga. She testified before lawmakers for the first time yesterday.

Ms Chan was tasked with finding a suitable medical plan for Ms Chong and her family members in 2004 that included enhanced coverage for traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture treatments and other benefits that went beyond plans for other board executives.

There was also concern about extending coverage to family members, especially since Ms Chong's husband already enjoyed a comprehensive executive medical plan, dubbed 'Taipan 01', Ms Chan said.

Evidence that Ms Chong did not sign her employment contract for at least 10 months after getting the document from Mrs Chow in April 2004 riled some lawmakers, who raised fears that fraud might be involved. There is no date on the contract indicating when Ms Chong signed.