Police to probe Clara Chong medical case
Dennis Eng and Eva Wu
Ex-Tourism Board chief faces insurance plan investigation
Clara Chong Ming-wah, the former Hong Kong Tourism Board executive director at the centre of a medical insurance plan controversy, is facing a police investigation after the government passed the case to the authorities yesterday.
The Tourism Commission said it had referred the matter to law enforcement agencies to consider taking follow-up action, as recommended by the Legislative Council's Public Accounts Committee.
A police spokesman said they had received information about the matter from the commission and would follow it up as soon as possible.
The government's actions follow the release of a damning report by the Legco committee highlighting lax corporate governance by the board. The report devoted a major portion to the circumstances surrounding the executive medical plan enjoyed by Ms Chong and recommended that the government recover the plan's benefits that exceeded her employment contract, or about HK$140,000.
An apologetic Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee, the former board chairwoman who ultimately approved the medical plan, said the committee's findings were accurate and she accepted responsibility as chairwoman. 'The fact of the matter is, I have approved an item of expenditure which I did not have the authorisation to approve. And no matter how complicated the process was leading up to that approval, I made a mistake. For that, I would like to apologise to the public,' Mrs Chow said.
Asked to comment yesterday, Ms Chong said: 'I'm not prepared to say anything right now.'
The board's chairman, James Tien Pei-chun, said legal advice had already been sought from law firm Baker & McKenzie.
'We think we have a case. But I think for public interest, it's not worthwhile spending HK$200,000 or HK$300,000 on legal fees trying to recover that amount. So I would tend to proceed with having a negotiation with Ms Chong to see if we can amicably recover that sum. If not, we probably have no choice but to proceed with a legal case,' Mr Tien said.
Legislator Philip Wong Yu-hong, who heads the committee, said the case 'is a matter of principle, not a matter of how much funds are involved'. He said Ms Chong should bear the lion's share of the blame.
The report said the executive medical plan had not been approved by the financial secretary, even though the Tourism Board Ordinance stipulated that the executive director's remuneration and other terms of employment must be cleared by the finance chief.
The report said the premium of the executive medical plan for Ms Chong and her family amounted to HK$177,404 for the two years from September 22, 2004, to September 21, 2006. The contract terms allow for premiums of only HK$37,000.
The government said it agreed that there was room for improvement in the corporate governance of the board, and the Tourism Commission was studying the report's recommendations.