Former director of housing Duncan Pescod, the most senior non-Chinese official in Hong Kong until his retirement in April, is to join the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority next month in the newly created position of chief operating officer.
Pescod, who joined the civil service as an administrative assistant in 1981, will become the first executive member of the authority with solid government experience.
His appointment could signal tighter control over a troubled cultural project which has been hounded by delays and cost overruns.
In his new position, Pescod, 55, will report to chief executive Michael Lynch and lead the project delivery, commercial and information, communication and technology departments.
Pescod’s appointment will be made after a board meeting in three weeks, according to sources. A Facebook request for his comment was left unanswered.
He joins the authority at a time when most of the 16 West Kowloon Cultural District Board members are retiring after serving six years.
The change opens the door for more pro-government members, especially allies of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. The authority was previously headed by Henry Tang, Leung’s rival in the 2012 chief executive election.
Pescod is no stranger to controversy.
Last year, when Pescod was a representative to the European Union, he was revealed to have handled a request to arrange a private audience between former Hong Kong chief executive Donald Tsang and Pope Francis.
As part of the arrangement, Pescod was to suppress crucial evidence of money laundering against former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi to prevent it from reaching Italian prosecutors.
In 2012, Pescod orchestrated the sale of first-hand residential properties by legislation, and that same year, he was forced to remove an illegal canopy on a retirement home he bought in Clear Water Bay in 2009. He denied any knowledge of the unauthorized structure.
Until April, he had lived in Sailing Look, 6 Lloyd Path on the Peak in a 5,000 square foot house with a monthly rental of HK$230,000, equivalent to his monthly salary then, but as a civil servant, he paid just HK$16,000 a month out of his own pocket.
After serving 32 years in government, Pescod went low profile after retirement.
Pernod left a Facebook comment on an EJ Insight story suggesting “this article of course nicely ignores most of the effort that the HA and Government is now putting in to increase production of both HOS (Home Ownership Scheme) and PRH (Public Rental Housing) units… The CE has quite rightly made housing his priority of priorities since his first day in office. I am on record as saying that the solution to high property prices is to build more affordable units”.
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