Jenney urges scrutiny of airport body

Linda Choy

THE Director of Audit, Brian Jenney, has formally called for the future airport management body to come under his scrutiny to safeguard public interests.

In a letter circulated to the Legislative Council yesterday, Mr Jenney said an independent value-for-money audit should be conducted to look into the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which the Airport Corporation would be run.

In the Airport Corporation White Bill, the Government has proposed limiting the director's access to events of serious government concern only.

Legislators have been pushing for that to be changed.

''The Airport Corporation is a public corporation and the Government is its sole shareholder and as such the corporation owes the Government, and hence the public, full accountability,'' Mr Jenney said.

A financial audit by private auditors would assess the financial statements of the corporation while a government auditor would examine the administration of public funds and report directly to the president of Legco, he said.

Noting the importance of independent government auditing, Mr Jenney said this could provide an ''impartial and objective review of the organisation's activities, free of pressure from the executive''.

This could not be compared with the internal and external auditing conducted by companies employed by the corporation.

He rejected the suggestion that this would lead to possible interference with commercial principles.

''This is unjustified because the Airport Corporation would not be treated as if it were a government department,'' he said.

There was sufficient regard to the fact that the corporation would be required to act in accordance with prudent commercial principles.

''An analogy may be found in trading funds in the Government which adopt commercial principles and practices. To provide public accountability, I have the authority to conduct value-for-money audits on their operations,'' he said.

Mr Jenney's call was supported by Meeting Point and the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood, which both called for the bringing of the corporation under his scrutiny.

Speaking after a meeting with the Secretary for Economic Services, Gordon Siu Kwing-chue, Meeting Point's Fred Li Wah-ming said the Government should accept the suggestion now that Mr Jenney has made his call.

The ADPL also called for the declaration of interests by members of the future airport management body.

It asked that the Legislative Council be allowed to have greater say in the corporation's decision-making process.

It suggested that the corporation include one-third of its members from the elected members of the Legislative Council; elected members of the district boards and the municipal councils; and government-appointed professionals.