Lawmakers accused the government of being too lenient in punishing a consultancy firm that leaked confidential internal data to a private developer after barring it from bidding on government projects for only three months. During joint housing and development panel meetings at the Legislative Council on Tuesday, lawmakers also criticised officials for their poor attitude and preparation for the hearing. Officials declined to explain the reasons behind the penalty decision, did not present past records of similar offences, and refused to disclose the government’s written correspondence with engineering giant Arup, the firm at the centre of the controversy. But after repeated requests, officials agreed to release some of the information. Government left high and dry after suspending go-to consultant The Civil Engineering and Development Department commissioned Arup in March to carry out an infrastructure design study of Wang Chau, Yuen Long, a public housing project. Arup was later accused of disclosing confidential data in a separate application to the Town Planning Board on behalf of developer New World Development to build a private residential development in Wing Ning Tsuen, next to the Wang Chau project. Data relating to Wang Chau’s projected population and job figures – information only privy to government departments for research purposes – was included in New World Development’s proposal to the board last year to rezone a green belt site. “There is no punishment at all in [penalising Arup] only three months,” Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan said. “It’s like a slap on the wrist.” Chan asked Secretary for Transport and Housing Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung and Undersecretary for Development Eric Ma Siu-cheung to explain the penalty system. Demosisto lawmaker Nathan Law Kwun-chung urged the senior officials to disclose any and all of its correspondence with Arup after the government started to suspect the firm of wrongdoing. Wang Chau villagers furious as they wake up to find notice of government construction work Several legislators asked whether the government would launch a criminal investigation into the case. But Ma defended the penalty. “I believe three months is not lenient,” he said. “You need to allow a company with over 1,000 employees to operate.” Ma initially refused to disclose the correspondence, citing a need to protect Arup’s privacy. Lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung then took documents that officials had brought to the meeting. The meeting was suspended for about two minutes and Leung was asked to leave. Ma later promised lawmakers he would provide as many of the documents they required as possible, including portions of the correspondence that they thought could be made public. Ma said the government so far had not found anything in the Arup case that warranted a criminal investigation. Lawmakers passed a motion to set up a special committee to follow up on the Wang Chau saga. A meeting and public hearing are to be held.