Former principal government land agent gives his old department a critical

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 March, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 March, 1999, 12:00am

Veteran Lands Department property surveyor Mo Chan-ming may not be the most appropriate person to criticise the department, but his opinion confirms there is room for the Government to improve its act.

Having worked for the department for 32 years and rising to become principal government land agent before retiring to set up his own business in 1997, Mr Mo has noticed changes in the division.

The department was a small division of fewer than 10 surveyors in the 1960s, Mr Mo said. Now it was the major profit engine for the SAR Government.

Mr Mo said the enlarged department had faced problems after the handover - including a shortage of experienced surveyors.

'I have dealt with them [in the past two years]. It seems that the Lands Department does not have experienced surveyors in the district office levels,' he said.

That could hinder the processing work of the department, he said.

The shortage of experienced officers was due partly to the sudden departure of senior staff before the handover, including Hong Kong district government land agent Victor Leung Lok-yiu, Sai Kung district officer Leung Kam-leung, and Mr Mo himself.

Mr Mo retired as principal government land agent at the age of 52 in 1997 and set up a survey firm in Tsim Sha Tsui.

At the time of his leaving, it was rumoured that his failure to be promoted to Director of Lands was a factor.

Mr Mo was one of three candidates who applied for the post in 1996.

Others were Tom Berry, at the time principal solicitor for the Lands Department, and the incumbent Bob Pope, who applied to have his contract renewed.

Mr Mo was finally beaten by Mr Pope, whose contract will end in September.

Mr Mo denied the rumour, adding that he was not interested in being Director of Lands.

' Applying for the post was due to some reasons that I do not want to disclose,' he said.

Being outside the department for two years, Mr Mo said he had observed that communication between the Lands Department and Government head offices had diminished.

He cited the decision to suspend government land sales in 1997 as an example, saying that the Lands Department had been insisting no such decision had been made even a few days before Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa announced the nine-month freeze.

Lack of communications could cause staff to get fed up, he said.

Having been a civil servant for 30 years, Mr Mo suggested the Government give more decision-making power to professionals, who had knowledge and expertise.

Under the present structure, administrative officers were trained to be the leaders of civil servants, heading the branches of government.

Administrative officers could be good managers, Mr Mo said. However, lack of expertise and knowledge sometimes hindered their performance.

In the two years since Mr Mo set up his business, the property market has fallen dramatically, affecting many surveying firms.

However, Mr Mo said he was not aiming at reaching new career peaks.

'Workloads and pressure I am facing are far less than that in the Lands Department,' he said.

He is the general adviser to two quasi-government corporations - Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation and the Land Development Corporation.

Mr Mo said he wanted to chase a life completely different from the one he had experienced before.

'I want to serve society with my knowledge and expertise,' he said.

Mr Mo said he planned to issue guidelines for property end-users to teach them how to buy apartments without being misled by the unclear sales booklets of developers.

Also, he was thinking of providing free training to government surveyors as a means of upgrading the quality of the department where he spent a major part of his working life.