My Take

At least one member of Legco is working for the public good

Abraham Razack has done a decent job as chairman of the public accounts committee, bringing to book outright incompetence in the bureaucracy

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 July, 2016, 1:44am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 July, 2016, 1:44am

For someone who is supposed to be in the pockets of big developers, Abraham Razack has done a decent job as chairman of the public accounts committee in the legislature. The lawmaker has time and again held various government departments and public bodies to account for blunders and misconduct during his tenure.

Among these have been the committee’s grilling of the Independent Commission Against Corruption about the huge amounts of liquor and gifts bought by the graft-buster’s free-spending former chief Timothy Tong Hin-ming and a multi-year delay in the deployment of the half-a-billion-dollar air control system by the Civil Aviation Department.

The committee has been far more effective in exposing government maladministration and ineptitude than any of the grandstanding pan-democrats, who have filibustered the people’s business under Legco to a halt. I would, of course, exempt Democrat Helena Wong Pik-wan, who single-handedly exposed the lead contamination of water supply at several major public housing estates. But then, she was never involved in all that filibustering nonsense.

As a parting shot, the Legco committee under Razack has delivered a damning report on the Rating and Valuation Department. According to a government audit, the department failed to collect HK$172 million in outstanding rates and rents in the past year. That takes some doing or deliberate inaction, if I may say so.

One landlord who owns 16 properties has not paid the department any rate or rent since 2007. How is that even possible?

Not all landlords are so outrageous. But many still refuse to pay for long periods. Of the HK$172 million, 54 per cent had been owed for less than a year,15 per cent between one and two years, and 31 per cent for more than two years.

And over 100,000 unauthorised works remain for two years or longer! The committee has expressed “grave concerns” about the department’s decision not to collect penalty rates on such illegal structures, some of which have been in use for years. Just take a ride through the New Territories. Not being sufficiently penalised is no doubt one reason why they are still there.

The decision is one of those inexplicable bureaucratic outcomes that our government seems to excel in. So bear in mind HK$172 million is just the headline figure. What many landlords and homeowners have got away with has not been factored in.