More shops on public estates will be rented through closed-door negotiations with would-be tenants in a pilot scheme that has sparked fears of abuse. Retailers will be offered the shop space of their choice if officers are convinced the rent offered is reasonable. Leases for about 160 shops on 63 Housing Authority estates will be offered today. On a first-come, first-served basis, prospective tenants will be invited to negotiate rents with officials who will decide 'the most reasonable tender rent'. The move reverses the practice of renting shops through invitations for sealed tenders. 'The old system took six weeks. But now we can rent out a shop within two weeks,' senior housing manager Lam Kwok-sing said yesterday. 'Our aim has always been to minimise the vacancy rate of our retailing space. It is good for tenants too because they can move into a shop and make money sooner.' There are about 500 vacant shops on the authority's estates. Society for Community Organisations director Ho Hei-wah warned the new move could lead to corruption. 'If I have a friend working at the department, I can simply ask him to hold a shop for me and I do not need to offer a tender,' he said. 'Sealed tender is widely recognised as a fair system. I am surprised the authority wants to change it.' Mr Ho called on the authority to invite the Independent Commission Against Corruption to assess the system. He also criticised the 'first-come first-served' move, saying it prevented the authority from choosing the highest bidder.