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Wang Chau housing saga

Company who won government tender penalised for leaking confidential data to private developer

Consultancy firm Arup barred from making bids for three months after disclosing population and employment figures to developer

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 November, 2016, 10:11pm
UPDATED : Monday, 14 November, 2016, 9:48am

A government-commissioned consultancy has been penalised for breaching contract and leaking confidential internal data to a private developer involved in a Wang Chau housing development.

Engineering giant Arup will be temporarily barred from bidding on government projects for three months, the Development Bureau confirmed yesterday.

“The public works consultancy contract makes clear provisions regulating a consultant’s known or potential conflicts of interest,” a bureau spokesman said.

“Without written approval from the relevant government departments, a consultancy shall not engage in, or make any contact with a third party that would relate to or affect [the contract].”

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The Civil Engineering and Development Department commissioned Arup to carry out an infrastructure design study in Wang Chau, Yuen Long, in March this year as part of the government’s public housing project.

Arup was later accused of disclosing confidential data in a separate application to the Town Planning Board on behalf of developer New World Development to build a private residential development in Wing Ning Tsuen, next to the government’s Wang Chau project.

Data on Wang Chau’s projected population and employment figures – information only privy to government departments for research purposes – was included in New World Development’s proposal to the board last year to rezone a green belt site for the private residential development.

The bureau yesterday slammed Arup for not enforcing “firewall” measures to prevent inappropriate use of information.

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But surveying and planning sector lawmaker Dr Edward Yiu Chung-yim said the “penalty” would only reduce competition for public tenders, which could lead to lower quality and higher costs for Hong Kong projects.

“They are in effect penalising Hong Kong residents as there are already so few consultants calling tender in Hong Kong,” he said, adding that information leaks were common and the government should instead tighten requirements for “firewalls”.

“Perhaps they could have one board member keep the keys to the information,” Yiu suggested.

Yiu said territorial population and employment data was not sensitive material and should be made publicly available.

The Arup Group did not immediately respond to requests for comment. It is understood the firm had previously explained that the breach was a result of negligent staffers.