Tourism Board unaware contract unsigned

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 January, 2008, 12:00am

A Legislative Council public accounts committee probe into alleged lax governance at the Tourism Board revealed yesterday that the board was unaware its former executive director had not signed her employment contract up to 10 months after it was renewed in 2004.

Former executive director Clara Chong Ming-wah told the committee that she had probably forgotten to sign the contract because she was too busy. 'Absolutely it was not my intention to delay signing the contract,' she said when asked if she had held up the contract because she was unhappy with terms relating to medical benefits.

The contract did not mention benefits, but Ms Chong said she understood from former board chairwoman Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee that benefits were included.

Ms Chong told the committee she could not recall when she signed the contract. There was no date on it to indicate when she had signed it. The issue was raised after internal e-mails reviewed by the committee suggested Ms Chong, whose term was supposed to start from April 2004, had not returned a signed copy of the contract to the board until February 2005.

The board is under scrutiny by the committee over an Audit Commission report criticising its governance.

Ms Chong's deputy at the time, Grace Lee Chan Ka-yan, was also criticised for trying to mislead the government by writing in a letter to the Tourism Commission in April 2006 that the contract had been 'dated' April 2, 2004.

Committee member Abraham Razack challenged: 'You could not have misunderstood the letter, according to the context.'

Mrs Lee said she had stated the fact that the contract was dated as having been drawn up on April 2, 2004. 'I could not have known when or whether the contract had been signed,' Mrs Lee said, adding that she believed it was not her duty to follow that up.

After Mrs Lee said she could not recall the details of Ms Chong's medical insurance, committee member Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung asked: 'Did you not write down what you were supposed to do? You only rely on your memory and when something happens, you cannot remember anything. Was it the role you were supposed to play as the deputy?'

The hearing continues on Monday.