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Transcript of remarks on drinking water press conference (with video)

    The Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam; the Secretary for Transport and Housing cum Chairman of the Hong Kong Housing Authority, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung; the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan; the Director of Housing, Mr Stanley Ying; and the Director of Water Supplies, Mr Enoch Lam, held a press conference on the Report of Commission of Inquiry into Excess Lead Found in Drinking Water today (May 31). Following is the transcript of remarks at the press conference:

Reporter: So the Commission criticised various government departments for turning a perfect system into a paper system, and that is a classic example of buck passing. As the leader of the civil service, what do you have to say about that? And why do you insist that no government official should be punished or take responsibility for that, not even the Director of the Water Supplies Department, which came under the heaviest criticism? And my second question is on the testing of water of all public housing estates. The Commission specifically recommended that you should include the testing of stagnant water. Can you tell us clearly whether you will do it?

Chief Secretary for Administration: On your first question, you will notice from my introductory remarks that I have taken the initiative to address the issue of responsibility, although attribution of responsibility is not one of the terms of reference of the Commission of Inquiry, but I am sure that this will be a question of much interest to our media and also to members of the public.

    It is true that the Commission of Inquiry's investigation has revealed quite a number of problems, but if you look and read thoroughly the report, many of those problems are what I call, and in fact it is also described by the Commission of Inquiry, as systemic, as collective. It is not pinpointing an individual for blatantly not following the rules or the law or abusing his or her responsibility and so on. So this brings me back to my point about executive responsibility.

     Of course, as the Chief Secretary for Administration and on behalf of the relevant government departments, I do admit that there are systemic problems, there is inadequate alertness, there is a flawed regulatory system in the various government departments that has led to the lead in water in public housing estates incident, but I do not find any evidence that it is a single individual government official who has committed serious mistakes that have led to the incident. So the right approach, as I see it, is really to look at the recommendations for improvement and try to move forward as expeditiously as possible to address those systemic defects that have been revealed by the Commission of Inquiry. And you will notice that I have actually gone an extra step in my concluding remark in the introduction that I am concerned that what the Commission of Inquiry has discovered in the course of this investigation concerning lead in water in public housing estates may also exist in other government departments, so I have taken the initiative that I would remind all the government departments really to look seriously at the various phenomena that have been revealed and to ensure that in all respects they will be able to cover their daily operations and to assure that we will be providing good services for the people of Hong Kong.

Director of Water Supplies: Let me take up the rest of the question. Actually if you have a look at the table we have distributed in regard to the latest situation of the follow-up actions, you will find that, according to the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry, we have to develop a suitable protocol, which may include collecting stagnant samples. So we have already commenced the work, including review of the relevant sampling protocols adopted by overseas countries including North America, the United Kingdom and Australia. We are also engaging overseas experts and consultants to study the applicability to the situation in Hong Kong. We also require the consultants not only to develop the protocols but also the necessary action levels, compliance rate and the follow-up actions. We will do these as soon as possible. Thank you.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

Ends/Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Issued at HKT 21:37


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