Good governance must operate on sound policies and principles. Among these are consistency and transparency. The government's refusal to disclose the salary of each of the new political appointees has violated both principles. This does not augur well for the new system, whose stated purpose is to improve governance. The South China Morning Post made a formal request for details of the salaries under the code on access to information. Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's office rejected the application. As a result, we have filed a complaint to the Ombudsman, as we are entitled to do under the code. We are pursuing the case in the belief that it is in the public interest to do so. After all, it is taxpayers who pay the appointees' salaries. The sorry saga over the nationalities and salaries of the undersecretaries and political assistants has gone on far too long and should now come to an end. This will only be possible if the government makes full disclosure. Officials have mishandled the affair and allowed it drag on. As a result, the new undersecretaries have given up their foreign citizenship in the face of public pressure. This is regrettable, as there is no legal requirement for them to do so and Hong Kong, as an international city, has long benefited from the efforts of many people who hold foreign citizenship. Unfortunately, the government has stated only the salary ranges and specific salary levels without saying exactly who earns what. This is obtuse, perverse and ultimately self-defeating. It leaves officials having to defend the appointees' high salaries while refusing to say exactly how much each of them earns. It has been a long-standing government practice to disclose the civil service's pay scales in general and - specifically - the salaries of different grades. The wages of all senior officials and judges are public information, as is that of the chief executive. Why this newly created second tier of government should be exempt from disclosure is a mystery. In its reply to this newspaper's request for salary details, the government claimed the information constituted personal data which could not be randomly disclosed. However, the information access code allows for the disclosure of personal data - so long as it is either agreed to by the people involved, is authorised by law, if the public interest is served, or if the disclosure in consistent with the purpose for which the information was collected. In a response to questions from this paper, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data said the release of the officials' salary information would not violate privacy laws. It also said that given government practice, senior officials should reasonably expect their salaries would become public knowledge. The new appointees should now be allowed to get on with their jobs. But for this to happen, the wholly avoidable row must come to an end. The government should do the right thing and make the information public.