City University roof collapse

Questions mount over City University roof collapse investigation panel after vice-president withdraws

Union leaders criticise lack of independent members with only one member from ­outside the ­institution on probe

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 May, 2016, 1:41pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 May, 2016, 2:14pm

The independence of a newly-formed panel, responsible for ­investigating last week’s roof ­collapse at City University, came into question ­yesterday for only including one member from ­outside the ­institution.

Concerns were raised after the university’s vice-president Sunny Lee Wai-kwong withdrew from the committee, citing a possible conflict of interest, as the institution updated the membership of the eight-person team.

Lee was in charge of CityU’s green roof projects, which earlier this year laid grass on the rooftop which collapsed.

But Lee Chak-hin, a student union representative, criticised the lack of independent experts on the panel, saying only one member was from outside the university – Professor Chung Kwok-fai, associate head of ­Polytechnic University’s department of civil and ­environmental engineering.

John Tse Wing-ling, chairman of the CityU staff union, said the committee should be led by an outsider. “If most people in the eight-person committee are from City University, the credibility is low,” he said.

The 1,400 square metre roof of the Chan Tai Ho Multi-purpose Hall, on the fifth floor of the Hu

Fa Kuang Sports Centre, came crashing down last Friday without warning, injuring three people, just over a week after hundreds of students took exams under the roof. The green pitch on the rooftop was planted in December last year and was completed in April.

The committee, chaired by CityU chief-of-staff Professor Paul Lam Kwan-sing, also includes council member Dominic Pang Yat-ting, vice-presidents Professor Horace Ip Ho-shing and ­Professor Matthew Lee Kwok-on, and Mak Hoi-wah, assistant professor at the applied social sciences department. Wei Jin-jin, president of the postgraduate association and Lee Chak-hin, acting president of the university’s students’ union.

“We have examined and ­discussed the terms of reference and the membership of the ­committee,” Lam said after the committee’s first meeting.

“We will look into the causes of this incident. Our work will focus on four areas: examining the contracts of the approved projects; examining whether the approved projects complied with the ­university’s regulations; any ­violations of law in approving and executing these projects; and making recommendations for avoiding similar incidents from happening in future,” he said.

Questions remain over who should be held responsible for the university’s failure to submit building plans for the green roof project. It was carried out by ­Sinoway Construction Engineering Ltd, which said ­surveyor ­Kenneth Chan Jor-kin was the ­“authorised ­person”.

Chan repeatedly denied he was in charge, saying he only ­provided written opinions.

But Dr Raymond Chan Kwok-hong, acting director of the communications and public ­relations office, said they followed advice from Sinoway and Chan to not submit building plans.

The committee expects to submit a preliminary report on June 6.