A LEADING firm of consultants has been blamed by a Legislative Council inquiry for last year's Kwun Lung Lau tragedy in which five people were killed. The preliminary draft of a Legco Select Committee report on the accident harshly criticises Mott Connell Limited, the Housing Society's consultants on slope safety, for failing to detect the danger. The seven-strong team of legislators conclude that last July's horrific landslide could have been prevented, and the Housing Society, Government, and the consultants missed many opportunities to do so. Five people, including a father and daughter, died when the slope's retaining wall collapsed during a torrential rainstorm, spilling tonnes of mud on to a busy path. Government-appointed investigator Professor Norbert Norgenstern revealed last November that the wall had been only 75 centimetres thick. It gave way because of heavy rain and seepage from cracked underwater pipes. Its late architect, Szeto Wan, had claimed in a general building plan submitted in 1965 that the wall was four metres thick. The Legco inquiry report, expected to be published next month, will criticise Szeto for this inaccuracy, which was the underlying cause of the accident. It also says the Government failed to uncover the mistake, both when the plan was submitted and again when preparing a list of safe slopes in 1978. But Mott Connell, which has been working for the Housing Society since 1985, will be strongly criticised over a summer 1992 inspection of the site that also failed to detect the inaccuracy in the original building plans. The firm will also be blamed for failing to detect the cracks in underwater pipes, since its checking process relied solely on a visual inspection and made no attempt to ascertain the state of the pipes. Two members of the Legco inquiry told the Sunday Morning Post that the report would place the main share of the blame on Mott Connell. 'The responsibility of a consultancy firm is to warn its client when the slopes is in danger, Mott Connell has failed to do that,' said Legislator Albert Chan Wai-yip, a member of the committee. Mott Connell was not available for comment last night. Committee members said the inquiry had been unable to determine why the mid-1992 inspection had suddenly been scaled down from the original plans for a wide-ranging investigation, which would have checked the state of the pipes, to a simple visual inspection. The consultants insisted during the Legco committee hearings that this was at their initiative. But the inquiry report is expected to question whether this was really the case. 'Some members of the committee wonder whether the inspection was scaled down because the owner [the Housing Society] wanted to save money,' Mr Chan said. But, other than raising this doubt, the report is not expected to attach any blame to the Housing Society, arguing that it has no expertise in slope safety. The committee will finalise its findings, criticisms, and recommendations at a closed-door meeting on Tuesday. The legislators are also expected to express concern about the manner in which local engineers conduct their investigations. Far-reaching recommendations on improving slope safety will form part of the report. These include setting up a Technical Review Board to examine the way in which engineers conduct their studies and works, and for the Government to strengthen its efforts to educate building owners on the importance of slope safety. The legislators decided to hold their own inquiry into the accident because they believed Canadian engineer Professor Morgenstern's investigation would only outline the technical reasons for the landslip, without assigning blame. Another part of the draft inquiry report attacks the Government and emergency services for poor co-ordination of the rescue effort.