Law and Enforcement


The quarantine minibus scheme was launched on 21 February this year: the government paid for 200 minibuses to take Covid patients into quarantine

The government has defended its use of a middleman to procure millions of dollars of quarantine bus services, claiming the unusual procedure was “due to the urgency of providing the transport service” but refusing to disclose how the middleman was chosen or the amounts involved.

Questions were raised after anonymous sources claimed bribery and corruption were rife through the quarantine bus scheme, which launched in February this year with around 200 minibuses to help shuttle Covid-positive patients to quarantine facilities.

The quarantine bus contracts, estimated by one source as worth more than $30 million, were awarded by Transport Department (TD) through the Public Omnibus Operators Association (POOA), with no public accounting of the way contracts were subsequently handled.

No tender notices or contract award information for the POOA deal appear on TD’s website.

“[…] the Government has directly engaged the Public Omnibus Operators Association Limited to liaise with the non-franchised bus trade to mobilise sufficient vehicles within a short period of time to provide the requisite service,” continued TD’s statement.

Seedy: the Public Omnibus Operators Association rents space in this Mong Kok building: the association has received undisclosed sums from TD for managing quarantine bus contracts

A visit to POOA’s Shanghai Street office, nestled in a run-down Mong Kok building amongst brothels and triad logistics operations, yielded no information, with POOA staff refusing to comment.

Fire Services Department (FSD), which manages the operation of the quarantine scheme also says it has also hired different service providers on top of those hired by TD – again, without giving further details.

In near-identical statements issued within minutes of each other, two days after questions, FSD and TD both said they handled all contracting “having regard to the actual circumstances”.

While relatively tight-lipped on the scheme, TD has given more information than for its Designated Taxi scheme, where it refused to even divulge the name of the agents involved in recruiting some 950 taxis to take patients to Covid clinics. “We are dealing with the trade,” a spokesman said at the time in response to repeated questions on the names of the organisations involved.

The most prominent feature in POOA’s Mong Kok office is a display case with two large “yard of ale” trophies from beer maker Carlsberg and two certificates of achievement from the Hong Kong Airport Authority dated 2003 and 2004.

Leave a Reply