Following is a question by the Hon Fred Li and a reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam, in the Legislative Council today (July 11):
The new Chief Executive (CE) and his politically appointed officials have already assumed office. He has openly undertaken that he would set an example and lead the civil servants and his politically appointed officials in establishing a clean and honest Government with integrity. Under the current system of declaration of interests by CE and politically appointed officials, they are only required to declare their investments and interests, but not their debts. Furthermore, there are public concerns whether there are unauthorised building works (UBWs) in the properties of politically appointed officials and about their political affiliation. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) whether any voluntary declaration on debts has been received from the aforesaid officials; if so, set out the details of their debts in table form; if not, whether they are to make such declarations voluntarily in the future, or whether the Government will revise the system of declaration of interests by clearly laying down the requirement for these officials to declare their debts;
(b) whether it has checked and verified if there are UBWs in the properties of the new politically appointed officials; if it has, set out the details of those UBWs; if not, of the reasons for that; and
(c) whether it knows if the aforesaid new politically appointed officials were the members of any Hong Kong, Mainland or overseas political party or political organisation five years before assuming office; if so, set out the political affiliation of each principal official under the accountability system?
The Administration gives the following consolidated reply to the three parts of the question raised by the Hon Fred Li:
(a) Under the present system, the Chief Executive (CE) and politically appointed officials (PAOs) are not required to declare their debts in their regular declarations of investments and interests.
The Independent Review Committee for the Prevention and Handling of Potential Conflicts of Interests (the Committee), appointed by the former CE and chaired by the former Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal, the Honourable Mr Andrew Li Kwok-nang, has given consideration regarding this issue. The Committee notes that loan is an advantage, and its solicitation or acceptance by a PAO, as with any civil servant, is subject to the section 3 regime of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance (POBO). The Committee has also proposed to apply section 3 of the POBO to the CE. In addition, the present system requires ad hoc declarations of debts and liabilities by the CE and PAOs in relation to specific matters being considered, in cases where their debts and liabilities may constitute potential conflicts of interests with such matters.
Having considered the above arrangements and bearing in mind privacy concerns, the Committee does not consider it necessary to include the additional requirement for the CE and PAOs to declare debts and liabilities in their regular declarations of investments and interests. The Committee notes that this is the position in the Civil Service where there is no general requirement to declare debts and liabilities in regular declarations of investments. And this arrangement has worked satisfactorily.
Having considered the views of the Committee, the Administration does not consider it necessary to require the CE and PAOs to declare their debts on a regular basis.
(b) Building owners are responsible for upkeeping the safety of their properties and ensuring that their properties are free of unauthorised building works. If an owner is uncertain of the condition of their properties, he should seek the advice of qualified professionals. The CE has already reminded the principal officials to handle this issue properly in accordance with the above-mentioned principle.
(c) In accordance with paragraph 4.2 of the Code for Officials under the Political Appointment System, PAOs shall declare to the CE whether they are in any way affiliated with any political party, whether they are members of any political party and whether they hold any office in any political party. They shall declare to the CE if there is any change in their status in relation to any political party.
The declaration shall be made available on the website of the bureau/office served by the official concerned for public inspection.
Ends/Wednesday, July 11, 2012