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  • Dec 25, 2014
  • Updated: 3:13am
NewsHong Kong

Hong Kong police in the hot seat over HK$1 million designer chairs splurge

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 December, 2013, 5:54am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 December, 2013, 5:54am

Police workers are sitting comfortably after the force splashed out more than HK$1 million on 240 designer chairs for its 999 reporting centres, it was revealed yesterday.

The Aeron chairs, made by the American office-supply company Herman Miller, were bought a decade ago at an average price of HK$4,300. Questioned about the spending at a Legislative Council meeting yesterday, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Professor Chan Ka-keung said the chairs had been chosen to "minimise occupational safety and health risks" for workers who must sit down for hours.

By contrast, staff at the 12 immigration control points, who also sit for long hours, make do with 600 chairs that cost HK$1,000 or less each.

The figures were revealed in response to a Legco question from People Power lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen.

Government spending on chairs has become a hot topic in recent weeks after the Chief Executive's Office was revealed to have shelled out HK$13,699 each for two chairs and spent HK$526,480 in total on chairs for six conference rooms. Raymond Chan raised the question after a Chinese-language newspaper reported that police and air traffic controllers were using hundreds of chairs that cost between HK$8,000 and HK$10,000 each.

Professor Chan told Legco that spending decisions were based on operational needs that varied between departments. He said government procurement decisions should be "properly justified and documented".

However, he gave only an average figure for the cost of the police chairs and did not address the question of how much the air traffic control chairs cost.

"The 999 reporting centres operate round the clock. It is often the case that each duty officer has to operate more than one computer terminal at a time," Professor Chan said. "The chairs must be safe, durable and ergonomically designed so as to minimise occupational safety and health risks that may arise from long hours of work that demand intense concentration, and to maintain efficiency and quality of service."

The Aeron chairs bought by the police are considered a design classic and have a permanent spot in the collection of the New York Museum of Modern Art. The company's website boasts that the chair "becomes a part of the person who uses it".

The police did not respond to requests for the prices of the individual chairs and an explanation of why that model was chosen.


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This article is now closed to comments

This is a storm in a teacup. $4300 for an Aeron chair is a fair price and my concern would be for the Immigration staff sitting in a chair less than $1000. You get what you pay for when buying a task chair especially in a situation where the chair may be in use by 2 or 3 shifts over a 24 hour period.
This report is totally biased. The Aeron chairs bought for $4300 have lasted 10 years and they are currently still in use. It does not state how long the $1000 chairs have been in use. If the $1000 chairs only lasts 1-2 years then the Aeron chairs are the better use of taxpayers money.
I completely agree with rpasea. Aeron chairs are excellent at preventing workplace injury, and they are a good investment for an office (especially at that discounted price) because they last more than 10-15 years if well maintained. If not longer. SCMP needs to do a better job of telling both sides of this story, if indeed it is a story at all. Don't just re-publish press releases. Be journalists.
Have a word with yourselves SCMP, you have been publishing a lot of **** articles recently and you are better than this. I would start reviewing your staff in the new year and recruit proper unbiased journos.
This story's got it totally wrong!! We need to get rid of this the old-school penny-pinching thinking that dates from the obsolete concept of disposable products. Agreed the chair is not cheap, but it also has no equal when it comes to ergonomics/durability at a cheaper price (I have one for over 15 years now and still going strong). It is an investment in a sustainable future for all: the tax payer saves money in the long run, the workers reduce back injury risks and poor quality chairs do not add to the landfill after a short life. It is a win-win-win situation!! Frankly, from my point of view, the person who signed off on this acquisition showed the intelligent long-term vision which is badly needed today.
I"ve yet to find a comparable ergonomic chair that is plain and less expensive. The cheaper ones that I've tried seem to fall apart after a year or two and are less ergonomic. It's worth it as it pays for itself in reduced injuries and healthcare costs. Have used one of these for several years in the past.
Well ergonomically design furniture are important for good work efficiency and occupational health of the user,and they deserve higher cost to be paid. For chair bound office workers, an ergonomically designed chair is part and partial of his tools for carrying out his work efficiently and safely. Have we also calculated the costs of the worker's other tools, here I refer to their dispatch computers system and communication system hardwares etc. To the workers, it is not just a chair, it is one of the most important tools along the entire service delivery chain for delivering the designed level of dispatch service.
Yingnam Fong
15 years ago, the new design office chairs were still uncommon in Hong Kong. It was after the strong recommendations of some authoritative international health care organizations that this functionality-based design chair was accepted as a new norm to ensure the good health of the desk bound workers. All chairs are made up of components obtainable from the open market. But the price varies very differently because of the variances in quality, workmanship, functionality, durability and most importantly the design. There should have no copyright on the overall design. However, the big company can add value to their product by providing the chair with a brand name, attractive outlook, performance, sturdiness and so on in order to attract customers looking for high end office chairs. Like garment, the product has a taste of fashion in addition to its functionality. With regard to the provision of a suitable new design chair to meet the great demand of the 999 operators, the traditional way of acquisition should not be the option. Again, the purchase I think was based on the Force's operational needs and after their market check. The product in this case should not be regarded as just an ordinary general store item. And it is a waste of time to dig out the purchase made over a decade ago.
LOL. The Hong Kong government must be the beacon of sound economics for the region. Ergonomically engineered chairs are good investments, make sure you have equally good desks and tables to match them with. Office injuries are a commonplace occurrence. Better offices mean less strain on medical care in the long run.
Agreed with rpasea. HK$4300 for an Aeron chair is a fair price 10 years ago. HK$8000 to HK$10,000 for an ergonomic chair today is not off the chart. Don't forget we live in the safest city in the world and our policemen deserve at least the very best chairs. Raymond Chan Chi-chuen should make better use of his and the minister's time. SCMP is doing the right thing by reporting this type of incidents so the public can monitor how legco members are making use of their powers.



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