• Sun
  • Sep 21, 2014
  • Updated: 1:24am
CommentInsight & Opinion

No room for advantage

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 August, 2013, 4:11am

Lawmakers see themselves as the watchdog of just about anything. From official's conduct to individual corporate dealings, they will not shy away from criticising whenever something does not smell right to them. It was not that long ago when they blasted former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen in unison for accepting sponsored trips and other favours from tycoons. Ironically, some members have accepted a Cathay Pacific junket to France this month; and still insist there is nothing wrong when it was disclosed by the media.

It remains unclear why the eight lawmakers and an executive councillor were selected. The highlight of the six-day trip is said to be the handover ceremony of an aircraft at the Airbus factory near Toulouse. But the stopover for sightseeing in Paris and the medieval castle in Carcassone means it is not just a work visit. It raises eyebrows further when they were allowed to bring along a family member; some even rode on the junket for their own vacation and work trips elsewhere.

A wide-range of plausible explanations has been given, but none appears to be convincing. One lawmaker said she simply did not understand why it became an issue, referring to numerous sponsored trips enjoyed by others over the years. Another member said the group was there to learn about the aviation industry. But the revelation that Cathay Pacific has renewed its opposition against a new budget airline during a briefing session has raised questions over conflict of interest.

Exco and Legco are the two most important political organs, with the former vested with the highest decision-making power while the latter holds the key to public funding and legislation. Their decisions can affect aviation business from time to time.

True, lawmakers only have to declare sponsored trips within 14 days under the present rule. But the question obviously goes beyond declaration. The controversies surrounding Tsang and other top officials in recent years show the community expects the highest standard from politicians. Practices unquestioned in the past are not necessarily acceptable today. The incident reflected badly on lawmakers' sensitivity and judgment. They should at least pay for the spouse's expenditure. Legco should also study whether rules should be tightened.

Adherence to the letters of the rules can no longer satisfy the rising expectations on public servants. Lawmakers and Exco members should avoid accepting advantages wherever possible, lest it could be seen as compromising their duties.


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This article is now closed to comments

The Airport Authority should also come clean on this and explain why their senior members also had to tag along on this trip, brow beating legislators into supporting an unneeded and environmentally devastating 3rd runaway.
How much of the tab did they pick up for this trip? Hotels, food and/or transport ? and (who knows?) may be the occasional ooh la la hostess for those who left their wives behind!
A dialogue
scmp:” “lawmakers only have to declare sponsored trips within 14 days under the present rule. But the question obviously goes beyond declaration”
me: “I agree. Please tell us what else besides declaration”
scmp: “Legco should also study whether rules should be tightened”
me: “I agree”
scmp: “Adherence to the letters of the rules can no longer satisfy the rising expectations on public servants. Lawmakers and Exco members should avoid accepting advantages wherever possible, lest it could be seen as compromising their duties.”
me: “I thought the tightened rules would spell out
“the advantages that could be seen to conflict interests
“Now who by what standards could judge what activities may constitute
“these so-called ‘wherever possible’ extra-regulatory advantages?
‘”Part serious and part for the fun of it, I proposed yesterday
“that public functionaries should each submit a report for public scrutiny
“on what they’ve learnt in education tours.
“This would be a and not the only requirement for treated tours
“Some may have learnt something of real public relevance, interest and use
“most could be just total waste of public resources
“The proud record-breaking 0:6, all dislikes, of my proposal
“reflects an intolerance that denies the accused the chance to explain themselves”
What about taxpayer funded junkets like the "poverty study" trip to Taiwan and Japan (20-29 Aug 2013)? Seriously doubt that such trip to "study" on how to alleviate poverty really have any effect on those old folks who still have to collect the cardboard boxes to sell even after this trip is done.
It is quite normal for a corporation to lobby government including LEGCO in its interest. It is abnormal for the lobbied of those entrusted by the general public to accept personal advantage from the lobbying corporation. The Cathay, LEGCO and the CE Council are now intertwined with a defenseless act of collusion. The calculating minds of those involved know collusion is not a crime in Hong Kong and certainly safe from investigation by ICAC. The free trip for Cathay it has big objectives to fill but for the one who took the trip was just a personal material gratification that last a week. The latter certainly being appeared comically stupid for falling into a trap of collusion for such small personal gain as appear to be. The general public and the press, when our institutions failed us must keep all eyes on the ball for the days to come. The silver lining to this unfortunate saga is that Cathay lobbied for its interest unusually in the open and hope it keeps ICAC at bay for the days to come.
'The milestone 1,000th A330 was delivered to Cathay Pacific Airways on 19 JULY 2013, powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines' Airbus website.
So it sat in Toulouse waiting for the freeloader trip in August when it could have been earning $$$ carrying passengers ? Legco summer recess commenced 19 July 2013.
'The (CX) statement also mentioned that the latest trip to France by an Exco member and several lawmakers included discussions of a third runway, labor shortages in Hong Kong and development of low-cost carriers' HK Standard 23 Aug 2013
How did they travel the 650 kms from Paris to Toulouse ?
What happened to the fast rail tunnel between Chep Lap Kok and Shenzhen airport ? The narrow bodied flights to the Mainland should all be out of there.
If UK owned CX / Dragonair wants a third runway in Hong Kong it should pay for one.
As for Quat's comment, CX should come clean and report which Exco / Legco related individuals it has previously flown free on such 'educational' trips.




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