No frills: Hong Kong government slashes cost of interim office for next chief executive

The rented office will only be used from the end of March to the end of June, when the chief executive will formally assume office

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 February, 2017, 8:11pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 February, 2017, 9:30pm

A no-frills office will be awaiting the incoming chief executive and supporting staff in March after the government decided to cut the budget on decoration by some 30 per cent amid public criticism it is too costly.

Taxpayers will save HK$4.63 million on decorations for the office in grade A office complex Champion Tower in Garden Road in Central.

The total cost of operating the office – for three months from the end of March until the next chief executive assumes office in July – will be HK$35.33 million, some 11 per cent cheaper than the original estimate of HK$39.96 million.

In a letter to lawmaker Edward Lau Kwok-fan to address his concerns, Director of Administration Kitty Choi Kit-yu said the government had been able to cut down the cost of decorating the office from the original estimate of HK$14.95 million to HK$10.32 million after a “reassessment” of the project.

Choi said it was made possible after the government decided to take a “no-frills” approach to office design and the use of materials, citing as examples “the use of paint instead of wallpaper” and the use of an open-office layout for about 23 supporting staff.

“The budget is thus cut down to HK$10.32 million, or down 31 per cent,” said Choi in her letter, adding: “The cost per square metre is now HK$9,400, and is lower than the average budget of HK$14,000 for general decoration works for government offices.”

Lau, of the pro-government Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said the reduction was acceptable but said: “I hope the next government can make use of existing government premises for the chief executive-elect, instead of renting an outside office.”

Non-affiliated pan-democrat legislator Claudia Mo Man-ching, who has complained to the Ombudsman and director of audit about the cost, said: “Some reduction is better than no reduction. But it is still unbelievably lavish spending, given that the office will be used for about three months only.”

The project sparked public criticism last month when it was revealed that the cost of the office had quadruped to almost HK$40 million compared to five years ago, when HK$8.29 million was spent.

Officials argued that owing to a lack of space at government premises this year, an office at Champion Tower would be rented for HK$12.92 million.

The office will only be used between March 26 – the date of the chief executive election – and June 30, but the rental period will be between late January and mid-August as office fittings will need to be installed and removed.