Lands Department responds to enquiries

In response to media enquiries, the Lands Department (LandsD) noted today (March 24) that the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has completed its investigation into a complaint related to the purchase of land by Assistant Director of Lands, Ms Anita Lam. Based on the known facts, the ICAC will not take further action and has referred relevant matters to LandsD for follow-up action.

The investigation of the ICAC focused on whether the case involved criminal offences. The LandsD will, having regard to ICAC's suggestion, separately consider whether any internal disciplinary or administrative follow-up action needs to be taken in respect of the relevant circumstances.

The Government has an established mechanism for handling civil service disciplinary matters. As the follow-up action is primarily internal disciplinary considerations, it is not appropriate for the LandsD to make comments at this stage and speculation from the public is discouraged for the sake of upholding impartiality of the follow-up action.

The LandsD has gained experience from the incident which aroused public attention in August 2014. The department is keenly aware that even if the staff has complied with the declaration requirements, the public may still hold different views towards whether investments in land by LandsD officers would constitute any conflict of interest with their official duties.

With a view to further improving the existing mechanism, the LandsD has reviewed the department's requirements on declaration of private investments and relevant guidelines, and has put forward recommendations in mid-2015 for staff consultation. The general directions of those proposals involve tightening the declaration requirements in respect of investments in land and properties across different levels of staff, as well as the promulgation of clearer guidelines on the making of private investments.

One of the suggestions is to require all directorate staff and a number of non-directorate officers with relatively sensitive duties to consult the management before they make any investment in land  (vacant land or site with topside properties), so that the management could offer advice on whether the investment involves potential or perceived conflict of interest.

Internal consultation is still under way. The LandsD hopes that the revised guidelines can strike a right balance between upholding civil servants' impartiality as well as avoiding conflict of interests on the one hand, and respecting civil servants' right to make private investments as well as protecting their privacy on the other.

Ends/Thursday, March 24, 2016
Issued at HKT 23:05