Lawmakers hit out at Tang website finding

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 July, 2011, 12:00am


Lawmakers have challenged a government finding that unpaid work carried out by a government employee for a website belonging to Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen and widely seen as part of his preliminary campaigning for chief executive had not breached any regulations.

They argue that even the private time of high-ranking officials belongs to the government and should be accounted for.

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Stephen Lam Sui-lung said the administration would not comment on the personal activities of officials. But lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said that all of Tang's time should belong to the government.

'The government offers the highest officials massive houses, non-accountable entertainment their lives are fed by public money,' said Lau, who chairs the New People's Party.

'Therefore all of their time belongs to the government and should be accounted for.'

Pan-democrat Lee Cheuk-yan called for a revamp of the civil service guidelines to close what they see as a 'loophole' that allowed the investigation into the incident to be concluded hastily. It was ruled that a non-civil-service contract information officer has not contravened any rule in helping Tang with the website planning.

A Civil Service Bureau rule prohibits administrative officers, information officers, directorate officers and police officers from participating in such electioneering.

But the government civil service regulation also stated that all government officers - civil servants or contract staff - must seek the consent of the head of the department before conducting outside activities, if any conflict of interests exists.

The administration would not say whether Denise Hung Hiu-king, the Chinese-language editor hired on non-civil-service contract terms who allegedly helped Tang in the campaign, had sought her boss' consent.

Lee said there was blatant conflict of interests and the regulation should not apply to permanent staff only.

'The job nature of civil servants and contract news officers are no different - both work with their media connections and could serve personal interests,' Lee said. 'The government should amend the rules to plug the loophole.'

Last month, the Apple Daily reported that the president and some members of the Internet Professional Association (iProA) were also involved in the design of Tang's webpage. The association was also embroiled in a scandal surrounding a government programme to subsidise online learning for poor students.

In response to Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan's written question at the Legislative Council, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Chan Ka-keung said the only business it had given to the iProA in the past five years was an advertisement for the 2008 voter registration campaign in the iProA's 2007 annual report, at the price of HK$9,800.

'The government has not engaged outside companies or organisations to 'work on analysing or disseminating political comments on the internet or related work',' Chan said.