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How to Build a Mega-Airport Without Corruption

New Transparency International Report Praises HK Experience - “Hong Kong Should Carry on with a Superb Tradition”

The Airport Core Programme in Hong Kong is an outstanding example of how corruption can be minimised even in the most massive infrastructure projects, a new report by Transparency International (TI) says. The findings of the TI report* are all the more striking against the background of the recent Bribe Payers' Survey** by the anti-corruption organisation which shows the construction industry to be the sector to be most heavily entangled in corruption world-wide.

"There have been very few large-scale airport projects anywhere in the world that have not been seriously tainted by corruption," said TI Board Member Dr. Michael Wiehen who was a member of the mission to Hong Kong. For example, just recently the tender for the new Berlin International Airport was cancelled by a court over a serious breach of procurement rules. Other recent airport projects marred by corruption were in Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna and Milan.

The new report stresses that the 20 billion-dollar project (US dollars) has, from all appearances, been implemented largely within budget, opened to schedule and with a minimum of corruption. The Hong Kong airport was built between 1991 and 1998 as part of the Airport Core Programme (ACP). Besides the airport itself, the ACP included high-speed rail and road connections with a major suspension bridge and a cross-harbour tunnel. It is one of the largest infrastructure projects ever undertaken anywhere in the world.

Four major factors

The mission concluded that there are four major factors, which allowed and facilitated the corruption-free execution of this massive investment project:

  • the existence of a clear and strict Prevention of Bribery Ordinance and of a strong, central anti-corruption institution (the Independent Commission Against Corruption), which has impressive legal powers and adequate (one is tempted to say, generous) staff resources to carry out its tasks and whose track record has led to Hong Kong's reputation as a low corruption zone backed by vigorous enforcement;
  • the existence of clear rules and effective control mechanisms
    1. for the selection/procurement of consultant and construction services and of equipment supplies,
    2. for the effective supervision and monitoring of the implementation of all contracts,
    3. for the enforcement of accountability among the Government's own staff and the consultants and contractors, and
    4. for Dispute Resolution;
  • the establishment, for ACP purposes, of special institutions such as the New Airport Projects Coordinating Office (NAPCO - since dissolved) and the Engineering and Associated Consultant Selection Board (EACSB) which handles non-ACP projects as well; the NAPCO had a flying dispute resolution team, which stepped in whenever a problem occurred; and
  • a favourable working environment, including appropriate salary levels among government servants, a high degree of professionalism and pride among the officials, and a relatively small society in which businessmen caught bribing or otherwise trying to manipulate the processes find it difficult to obtain other business, making any effort at corruption a high-risk activity.

The TI mission report concluded that it "was somewhat surprising that the issue of "probity" or "integrity" of the private-sector partners of the government in this very large and complex venture did not receive a more formal treatment in the selection procedures, e.g. by asking bidders specific questions as to their past probity or integrity record."

The objective of the TI mission to Hong Kong was to learn how this remarkable outcome was achieved, so as to be able to share the lessons learned with others around the globe, who are desirous to reduce corruption in the context of major investment projects. "As the rest of the world observes, and considers to emulate, the experience of Hong Kong, Hong Kong itself should carry on with its superb tradition," Dr. Wiehen concluded.


* Report by a mission of Transparency International; December 1999: Hong Kong: The Airport Core Programme and the Absence of Corruption
** Available on the TI web site:

For any press enquiries please contact

TI Int’l Secretariat:
Mr. Jeff Lovitt
Tel.: +49-30-3438200,
Fax: +49-30-34703912
E-Mail: [email protected]

TI Mission team:
Dr. Michael Wiehen
Tel.: +49-89-4895 4440, +49-89-9975 0239
Fax: +49-89-4895 4442
E-Mail: [email protected]

Peter L. Rooke
Tel./Fax: 61-3-9890 0503
E-Mail: [email protected]