Duncan Pescod takes heat for secret arts hub consultancy reports

Local | 29 May 2017 10:04 pm

Lawmakers slammed the government and the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority today, accusing them of a lack of transparency.

The authority provided lawmakers with consultancy reports to explain why it gave up on the idea of building a large performance venue at the site. Critics have since claimed that it was so the future Palace Museum can be built there instead. 

Democratic Party lawmaker Helena Wong questioned why those consultancy reports had been redacted.

"All those reports were kept at the Legco library archive. And if we want to see them we have to make an advance appointment. Secondly, we cannot disclose any information from those four reports and we cannot take any notes, we cannot take photos, meaning that you can just read it but you cannot talk about it,'' Wong said.

In reply, the authority’s chief executive Duncan Pescod explained that the reports weren't released in full because they are commercially sensitive. 

"There is absolutely no doubt that the information has to be protected. We don’t want potential bidders to know what our thinking is in terms of the value of the sites and the potential revenue that could be derived from the sites,” Pescod said. 

But Business and Professionals Alliance lawmaker Abraham Shek said this wasn't a good reason, especially since the land could have been turned over for housing, offices or commercial use, if it hadn’t been set aside for the arts hub. 

"Commercial sensitivity has no place in the whole concept of the West Kowloon Cultural District,'' Shek said. 

The WKCDA was also forced to defend a public consultation exercise that found 52 percent of respondents supported the Palace Museum project. 

Lawmakers questioned whether the public had been genuinely informed of the choices for the site in the cultural district, and whether the exercise had been skewed to get the desired result.

The authority said the consultation was fair and had been analysed independently, and said it would continue to engage the public on the project over the next few years.-RTHK

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