civil aviation

Exit door: Hong Kong’s controversial aviation chief replaced

Lawmaker says scandal-plagued Norman Lo ‘should at least have his pension cut back’

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 May, 2016, 9:26pm
UPDATED : Friday, 06 May, 2016, 11:13am

The controversial head of the Civil Aviation Department, who presided over a series of scandals, including the botched procurement of a new air traffic management system, is to be replaced.

Norman Lo Shung-man, 59, will start pre-retirement leave on May 19 after almost 40 years in the department, 12 of them as its head. His deputy, Simon Li Tin-chui, will take over as director-general of civil aviation, the government said on Thursday.

Pan-democrats have urged the government to hold Lo accountable for the blunders at the department in recent years.

Lawmaker Wong Yuk-man said: “An official who was involved in so many scandals should at least have his pension cut back.”

Kenneth Leung, the accountancy legislator, said Lo’s departure might be a good time to review the long-delayed air traffic control system, which was originally planned to be ready in 2012 but has stability issues.

A media exposé in 2013 revealed a series of blunders in the procurement of the HK$570 million Autotrac 3 system.

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

In a report last year the Legislative Council’s Public Accounts Committee“strongly condemned and deplored that [Lo] ... had blatantly failed to perform his responsibility and duties in ensuring the due diligence relating to the [air traffic management system] was conducted adequately and thoroughly”.

In 2014, Lo was forced to offer a public apology after an audit report finding pointed out multiple violations to the original plan for new department headquarters at Hong Kong International Airport, including building an extra 1,500-square-metre space, spending HK$67.5 million on security and electronic systems, and building a shower in Lo’s office. None of the changes had government approval.

Hong Kong aviation director Norman Lo slammed over unauthorised headquarters work

Then in the recent “baggage-gate” controversy, Lo was criticised for insisting that security rules were not breached when a third party was allowed into a restricted area of the airport to deliver luggage that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s daughter had left at a check-in desk.

A spokesman for the department said Lo was not prepared to comment.

Secretary for Civil Service Clement Cheung Wan-ching praised Lo for having “taken an active part in developing Hong Kong into an international aviation centre and air logistics hub”.

Lo joined the government in 1976 and the following year moved to the Civil Aviation Department as a student air traffic control officer. He is also a professional pilot.

Li, 57, joined the department as assistant operations officer in 1983 and rose to assistant director-general in 2010. He was appointed deputy director-general in 2014.