West Kowloon Arts Hub inquiry sure to open a can of worms
We wait to see how far legislators will go in their investigation into the vagaries of the contest for the design of the West Kowloon arts hub and the tendering process for the right to build the scheme.
The aim of the inquiry is to assess whether or not chief executive candidate Leung Chun-ying had a conflict of interest with respect to the project.
But having prised off the lid, the question is how many worms will come wriggling out of this can and how much will the public eventually get to hear. Concerns have already been expressed about revealing confidential financial information.
Readers will recall the government was initially intending to have the hub built by one developer. While about 30 per cent of the site was to be for arts and cultural projects, 60 per cent was commercial and residential development.
The value of the property development to any developer was huge, even by Hong Kong standards.
One property industry insider tells us that there was concern among other developers that the Cheung Kong-Sun Hung Kai joint venture was well placed to get control of the project.
The other developers therefore had to stop the JV winning as the huge volume of supply and the fact that the pricing upside for the flats that went to the winning developer would have meant that the two companies would have been unassailable for a decade to come and would be able to price the rest of the market off the scheme.
The potential profits were huge, with figures of HK$100 billion for one proposed scheme. But the government did not want the financials of each developer revealed to save embarrassment.
So some of the big developers got together and button-holed their political friends in the Legislative Council to pressure the government into revealing the financial projections behind each scheme, hoping that the government would not be able to proceed if the developers did not reveal them, and that the contest would collapse under the weight of public uproar if the developers did show how profitable the scheme was.
In the event, the government abandoned the contest. But it remains to be seen whether any of this will ever see the light of day following the Legco inquiry.
One thing for sure is that the government must regret the day it tried to throw a little mud C.Y. Leung's way by mentioning him in connection with the West Kowloon arts hub.
Plate should be off the wall
Our attention has been drawn to a rather smart establishment on Bowen Road in the Mid-Levels, which displays a highly polished plate describing itself as 'Consulate of the Republic of Seychelles'.
Today's photograph by David Webb, editor of webb-site.com, was taken recently outside the home of Samuel Chan Wing-sun, vice-chairman of YGM Trading and Chairman & CEO of Hang Ten Group Holdings. According to a notice in the Government Gazette, his appointment was terminated in December 2005.
But six years later the sign outside Chan's home still claims to be the consulate. Chan admits he is no longer honorary consul but disputes that his position was terminated, saying it was ended by mutual consent. He was less forthcoming about why the plate was still on the wall, saying it had not been discussed with the Seychelles.
According to the Government Gazette, the mantle of Honorary Consul of the Seychelles has passed to Diana Chen Ningning, who for a while was known as the 'steel princess' until her financial and legal problems rendered that title superfluous, and has kept her profile somewhat lower than Chan's.
Glowing tribute to civil service
A reader has sent us a speech by the Secretary of the Civil Service Denise Yue Chung-yee in June 2010 at the start of a workshop on Common Law Offence of Misconduct in Public Office and Integrity Management in Civil Service.
She kicked off by observing that 'the Hong Kong Civil Service is a permanent, honest, meritocratic, professional and politically neutral institution. We pride ourselves on having a high standard of ethics and integrity. I am sure all of you would agree ethics are the bedrock on which good governance is built; and integrity is the core value of an honest civil service'.
She went on to introduce one of the speakers, a police officer, who, 'will share with us the police best practices in integrity management. He will show us how important it is to have commitment and drive from top management if we ever hope to have effective integrity management in an organisation'.
All we can say is that it brings tears to the eyes. Clearly the right people did not attend this workshop.