Following is a question by the Hon Kam Nai-wai under Rule 24(4) of the Rules of Procedure and a written reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam, in the Legislative Council today (February 29):
It has been reported that the Chief Executive (CE) admitted on February 26 that he had sold 1,600 bottles of his private wine collection in 2010 to a former Chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, and donated all the sale proceeds totalling $2 million to charitable organisations, but CE admitted that he had claimed tax deduction for the donations. In 2003, the Government leased the former Central Ordnance Munitions Depot, Shouson Hill to a wine cellar operated by that former Chairman for a monthly rent as low as $2,700. The report pointed out that the incident has aroused suspicion among the public on whether some officials may have engaged in the transfer of benefits and has given the general public a negative perception of public officers. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) whether it has assessed if public officers engaging in private dealings with persons with whom the Government has official dealings and benefiting from such transactions may have impact on the public's perception of the Government and public officers; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; if it has not assessed, whether it will carry out the assessment immediately; and
(b) with regard to the leasing of the former Central Ordnance Munitions Depot, Shouson Hill to the wine cellar operated by that former Chairman, of the government departments and post titles of the officers involved in making the decision; further, whether such government departments had received recommendations on the lessee, verbally or in writing, from staff members of the Chief Executive's Office; if so, of the details?
The Administration's reply to the question raised by the Hon Kam Nai-wai is as follows:
(a) A summary showing the sale of the Chief Executive (CE)'s private wine collection and the subsequent donation of all the proceeds to charitable organisations is given at the Annex. The CE reiterated that he had not obtained any advantage alleged by the Hon Kam Nai-wai. It is the CE's rights to report his charitable donations for the purpose of tax deduction under the Inland Revenue Ordinance, and he indicated that he had been doing so from time to time.
(b) In its "Study of Evaluating Hong Kong as a Wine Distribution and Trading Centre" back in 2000, the Government proposed using bunkers as cellars. It had tried to identify interested parties in the wine industry to implement the proposal but in vain.
In 2002, the Crown Worldwide Group indicated interest to turn a bunker into a facility for wine storage. To implement the above recommendation put forward in 2000, the then Financial Secretary endorsed in November 2002 the proposals of the then Economic Services Bureau to lease the Central Ordnance Munitions Depot in Deep Water Bay Drive to the Crown Worldwide Group at the prevailing market rent for a term of seven years for wine storage purpose. Following an open tender, the Government renewed the lease with the Crown Worldwide Group at the prevailing market rent in 2010.
The CE's Office has not recommended, whether verbally or in writing, to the department concerned that they lease the facility to the Crown Worldwide Group.
Ends/Wednesday, February 29, 2012