The government has said that most of the furniture in the temporary office for Chief Executive-elect Carrie Lam was borrowed from other departments in order to save on costs.

“We are pleased to reveal that we treat the chief executive-elect poorly – most of the furniture was secondhand and borrowed from other departments. Computers were also borrowed,” Director of Administration Kitty Choi Kit-yu said at a special meeting of the legislature’s Finance Committee on Wednesday.

Carrie Lam. Photo: Carrie Lam.

Choi said the four cars provided for Lam’s team came from the Government Logistics Department. “We hope to save money through these measures,” she said. “We will return the supplies to the relevant departments afterwards.”

The government came under fire in January after it announced that the office space for the chief executive-elect would cost nearly HK$40 million – more than four times the amount paid by the government five years ago. The increase was due to the cost of renting outside office space at the Champion Tower in Central.

The deal was made before the legislature was informed. Following opposition from lawmakers and the public, the government cut the cost for the new office by around HK$4.3 million.

On Wednesday, pro-Beijing lawmaker and rural leader Kenneth Lau Ip-keung asked Choi whether the furniture in Lam’s temporary office would be secondhand, in keeping with the government’s waste reduction campaign.

Champion Tower (right). Photo: Champion REIT.

He also asked the government to consider the option of shared offices. Choi said the government will consider the suggestion, but added that it is too early to make plans for the next leadership election, which takes place five years later.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Michael Tien, who chaired the special meeting, commended the government for its “high efficiency” after Choi responded to the question.

The temporary office is only used for three months – between March 26 and June 30 – before Lam takes office as chief executive. HK$16.95 million was set aside for office fittings and their removal afterwards.

Pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo called the plan “unbelievably lavish spending.”

A deputy director of administration said earlier that there was no more space available in government office buildings. He said the government rejected an idea to relocate some departments to make space for Lam, because it “may be even more expensive this way.”


Ellie Ng

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.