Disciplinary action must be taken against Hong Kong civil aviation chief Norman Lo

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 June, 2015, 2:07am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 June, 2015, 8:22am

When a top official has been censured twice, the public rightly demands accountability. For the second time in four months, Director General of Civil Aviation Norman Lo Shung-man has been criticised by the Legislative Council for not discharging his duties properly. Pressure on the government to mete out the appropriate disciplinary action is growing. Ever since the Audit Commission released its value-for-money probe on a series of irregularities with the Civil Aviation Department's spending, it was clear that Lo could not escape criticism. In February, he was condemned in the strongest possible terms by Legco's Public Accounts Committee over the fiasco surrounding the department's new headquarters. Without prior approval, he spent HK$67.45 million on security and electronic systems, reserved extra space for future use and built luxurious recreational facilities for department staff. The committee later concluded that Lo had not only overridden other departments in the process, he also willfully neglected his responsibility to provide full information when seeking funding approval.

Now, questions over the purchase of a new air traffic control system have raised even more serious concerns. The committee challenged the repeated changes made to the tender, which caused substantial cost overruns and delays in implementation. The old system is still in use even though it should have been retired three years ago.

At stake is not just proper use of public funds. Hong Kong is one of the busiest aviation hubs in the world. The committee is gravely concerned that air safety will be compromised by an outdated traffic control system and has called for an independent assessment on whether the new system can be ready for use next year as planned.

The government must now follow up on this matter, including appropriate punishment for the official concerned and ensuring air traffic and safety are not compromised.