The government of Hong Kong has suspended the Hong Kong office of UK-based consultancy Arup from tendering for projects for three months, accusing the firm of breaking confidentiality and conflict of interest rules.
It means Ove Arup & Partners Hong Kong Ltd (OAP), cannot bid for approximately 20 anticipated projects between November and February, and that around HK$100m worth of tenders currently being assessed by government departments will come under scrutiny.
The announcement, published by Hong Kong’s Development Bureau late on 15 November, follows a probe launched in September by Hong Kong’s development minister into whether Arup breached confidentiality agreements after data concerning a government housing project at Wang Chau appeared in a developer’s planning bid.
Active in Hong Kong for 30 years with both government and private clients, Arup was accused of including confidential government population and employment projections in a bid by a private developer, New World Development, for approval from the Town Planning Board to build a residential scheme next to Wang Chau.
In its statement given in response to media enquiries last night the Development Bureau said the suspension was "a proper penalty that will bring certain impact on the company".
The Bureau said: "OAP did not comply with the terms of the government consultancy agreement in obtaining prior approval for undertaking a private development project, and did not follow strictly the company’s internal procedures in preventing improper use of information, resulting in information obtained from the government consultancy agreement being quoted in the planning application of the private development project.
"We consider that temporary suspension of tendering by OAP in respect of all categories of consultancy agreements under the jurisdiction of the Engineering and Associated Consultants Selection Board for three months (from November 7, 2016 to February 6, 2017) is a proper penalty that will bring certain impact on the company. The Engineering and Associated Consultants Selection Board is chaired by the Director of Civil Engineering and Development, with members drawn from the Development Bureau and the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau.
"We anticipate that there will be about 20 consultancy agreements for which tenders will be invited from this month to February next year. OAP will not be allowed to participate in the tendering of these consultancy agreements.
"Also, for OAP’s tenders for consultancy agreements currently under tender assessment, the tender assessment panels of related government departments shall, in accordance with the related guidelines of the technical circular, assess them in details and seriously consider whether these tenders should be further processed. The total value of these consultancy agreements is about $100 million.
"To prevent recurrence of similar incidents, we have issued a memorandum requesting all works and related departments to remind consultants employed by them to comply strictly with the ‘confidentiality’ and ‘conflict of interest’ provisions in consultancy agreements."
In a statement emailed to GCR an Arup spokesperson said: "Arup respects the Hong Kong Government’s decision. We have nothing further to add at this time."
Image: Among Arup’s many projects in Hong Kong is the Hong Kong Velodrome, which opened in 2013. Arup was structural engineer (Arup)
- Updated to include Arup’s response.