AVIATION

Two Hong Kong officials accused of misconduct over new aviation headquarters

One is former civil aviation chief Norman Lo, according to a government source; one will escape disciplinary action following retirement

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 February, 2017, 11:33pm
UPDATED : Friday, 03 February, 2017, 11:38pm

Two senior officials with the Civil Aviation Department, including its former head, have been ­accused of misconduct stemming from a probe into the construction of its new headquarters, ­according to a government probe.

A government source said one was Norman Lo Shung-man, who stepped down as civil aviation chief in May last year and then went on pre-retirement leave.

The officials were linked with unauthorised spending on the new building, including the addition of space, security and electronic systems costing HK$67.5 million and shower facilities in Lo’s ­office.

The investigation revealed “prima facie evidence indicating alleged acts” of misconduct on the part of the retired official, the statement read. However, since the official had left, “the civil service disciplinary mechanism is not applicable”.

Hong Kong aviation officials could face action over unauthorised headquarters work

The Transport and Housing Bureau, which conducted the ­investigation, also said in a statement there was evidence of misconduct by a “senior directorate officer” and summary disciplinary action had been taken.

The officials have not been named for privacy reasons.

The outcome of the investigation was released following the conclusion of a criminal investigation, which was understood to have been carried out by the police. However, a force spokeswoman said they did not have information on the case.

The government probe was launched after the audit watchdog and the Legislative Council’s Public Accounts Committee conducted investigations into the mishandling of the department’s new headquarters at the airport.

Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting, who is a Public Accounts Committee member, said the results showed a need to close the loophole in the civil service disciplinary mechanism.

“If it is proven that civil servants committed misconduct when they were still employed, then action should be taken accordingly, such as making deductions from their pensions,” Lam said.

“This is completely ridiculous and it points to a systemic problem. The government needs to address this, otherwise [civil servants] can just do as they please.”

Commenting on the misconduct findings, committee chairman Abraham Razack, said: “The committee’s responsibility is to highlight the problems – that the facts have revealed that governance became an issue in the department. It’s the job of the government and this is exactly what they have done here.”

The Audit Commission found the department received approval for a new headquarters with a net operational floor area of 22,775 square metres, of which 3,240 square metres was reserved for future expansion. But the watchdog found it built an additional 1,500-square-metre area for future use that was not approved.

Other blunders include spending HK$67.5 million on security and electronic systems and building shower facilities in Lo’s office without approval.

Lo was also heavily criticised over the procurement of a new air traffic management system, which has continued to trouble the city’s air traffic controllers.

The then director general of civil aviation failed in his responsibility, the Legco committee concluded in its investigation into earlier reports by the Audit Commission. Lo was forced to apologise in 2014 following the audit report.

The Civil Aviation Department declined to comment on the report. Norman Lo could not be reached for comment.