TEN public housing estate officers are to be sacked or forced to retire after an inquiry found they had cheated on overtime claims or gone travelling while on duty. The investigation, which took the Housing Department nearly a year to complete, is one of the biggest inquiries into misconduct in the public sector. Up to 200 housing staff, mostly estate assistants, technical workers and their seniors, were involved. The department launched the investigation after detecting false claims for overtime by officers. Subsequent inquiries revealed some had travelled to Shenzhen and others had gone hawking during working hours. The Assistant Director of Housing (administration), Edward Law Wing-tak, confirmed several officers would be dismissed but refused to go into details. He said: 'I can assure you that it is a very serious investigation and the department is determined to clean out those lazy staff.' About 10 face dismissal or compulsory retirement while the others will be given warnings. Mr Law is expected to submit a final report to Housing Authority members at the establishment and finance committee meeting on December 14. In 1994-95, 13 housing staff members were sacked and two were ordered to retire because of misconduct. Fifty-four were given warning letters. This compares with 108 dismissals in the whole civil service for the same period. Authority member Lee Wing-tat urged more civil servants be replaced with contract staff. 'Even the lowest-ranking officers cost taxpayers $6,000 to $7,000 a month. I do not think public money should be spent on feeding lazy bones. 'Speeding up privatisation of housing management could be the solution.' He said he would raise the idea with the Deputy Director of Housing (administration and policy) Clarie Lo Ku Ka-lee. A spokesman for the Hong Kong People's Council on Public Housing Policy, Leung Ping-wah, said the authority should enable the estate management advisory committees to monitor staff. Residents are represented on the committee but they can only give suggestions on daily management tasks such as cleaning or minor maintenance.