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.