Rowse faces sanctions for publishing his book

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 November, 2009, 12:00am

Former InvestHK chief Mike Rowse is facing possible sanctions for failing to obtain government approval for his book due to be launched today.

The Civil Service Bureau has written to Rowse reminding him of the need to seek approval for outside work, including book publishing. Retired directorate officials are required to seek approval to avoid conflicts of interest during a set period. This includes publishing a book, even if self-financed. 'Up to this moment we haven't received his application for outside work,' an official familiar with the situation said.

Rowse, who retired last year but is on final retirement leave, is launching a book today over what he calls the true story of the HK$100 million HarbourFest fiasco, a series of concerts critics said failed to improve the city's image after Sars in 2003.

Rowse has maintained he was made a scapegoat when a civil service disciplinary panel fined him HK$156,660 and reprimanded him for his handling of the concerts.

He later took his case to court and was cleared of wrongdoing in July last year, when a court ruled the disciplinary hearing had been procedurally unfair.

The official dismissed suggestions that the bureau was trying to block the tell-all book.

'Our focus is not the content of the book. We never asked for the content. We are not going to vet the content,' the official said.

The bureau was just concerned whether Rowse's previous job and his publishing work, such as the relationship with the publisher and working partners, would cause a conflict of interest. While the bureau was apparently satisfied that such a conflict of interest was unlikely in this case, the official stressed approval was still needed.

'It is not up to the applicant to judge if there will be a conflict of interest,' the official said, adding that the rules spelled out clearly that outside work covered book publishing.

Non-compliance risks sanctions ranging from forfeiture of pension to reprimand under civil service rules.

In an interview with RTHK yesterday morning, Rowse stressed it was 'too late now' to comply with another set of regulations since the book had been finished and all the appointments had been booked. 'If they had told me in May, I could have complied, but it's too late now.'

Privately, Rowse has spoken of his frustration at the latest set of correspondence, which suggested the bureau had only recently learned of his intention to publish a book - a fact he had made public since his retirement in December. He has also questioned how these regulations would apply to him writing a book from which he is not expected to profit, while the court proceedings he initiated to clear his name had cost him HK$3 million.