Olympic boss challenges SDB over staffing costs
By NORIDEEN KITCHELL
HONGKONG'S Olympic chief A. de O. Sales yesterday turned up the heat in the war of words with the Sports Development Board by questioning how the Government-funded body spends its money.
Sales said he and the territory's national sports associations were ''not interested in how each dollar and cent is spent, but we want to know if all the money available is going into sports and sport promotion, and not on bureaucracy''.
The president of the Amateur Sports Federation and Olympic Committee, to which the associations are affiliated, added: ''We want to know how much they spend on staff, on staff going abroad for meetings and on administration.'' The SDB, with 43 staff on their books, ran on an annual budget of more than $20 million for the 1992-93 financial year, which was almost 40 per cent of their total expendable income of $55 million.
Sales said: ''I have been running the ASF & OC for 40 years and we never spent that much money on staff. Even the salary for my secretary is paid out of my own pocket.
''And we are not a poor organisation - we are worth $20 million.'' In its first year of operation, 1990-91, the SDB received $46 million in Government subvention, of which $27 million went into sports grants and $17.5 million, representing 38 per cent of their budget, was for staff and administration costs.
SDB's chief executive Howard Wells was not available for comment last night, but the board's public relations manager Sandra Lee San-san said the employment of 43 staff was a policy decision approved by the Government in 1991 for four years.
Sales' comments, made at a press conference to announce the programme for Hongkong's 36th annual festival of sport, are the latest salvo in a feud between the ASF & OC and the SDB over the latter's efforts to persuade sports associations to move into Sports House in So Kon Po.
Many associations are currently housed at the ASF & OC headquarters at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium in Wan Chai.
The SDB have asked associations to decide by tomorrow whether they will take up an offer of free office space at the new Sports House, due to open in April next year at the same time as the revamped Government Stadium.
In turn, the associations on Monday called for the formation of a sub-committee to examine why the SDB had imposed such a deadline.
Sales added: ''The proposal to relocate to Sports House might have been done with good intention but the way they did it was very high handed.
''They built Sports House without consulting any of the associations and now they are threatening them that they will lose their rent subsidy if they don't move.
''Whether they stay or not they should still get assistance from the Government. The SDB are not paying the associations, the money is to pay for rates and maintenance and it goes straight back to the Government. The Urban Council charge each association only $1 rent at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium.'' Sales said the proposal for relocation was an attempt by the SDB to split ''a very happy family'' but he stressed the ASF & OC were not interfering with the associations' decisions.
Sales, however, reiterated the ASF & OC would keep their headquarters at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium and he was confident some of the sports associations would also remain.
''Contrary to what many people think, Sports House is not big enough to accommodate all the national sports associations,'' he said.
''We are encouraging the associations to make their own decision on whether they want to move and those who move out will only make room for others to come in.
''There are some associations, like hockey, who have their own offices now but they will have to share space on a need basis at Sports House. So obviously they are not willing to move.
''I don't know what is the SDB's yardstick for the allocation of office space and whether that yardstick is correct.'' The SDB's allocation of space is based on the number of full-time staff employed by the associations and the ranks of those staff - with each association entitled to a ''general registry'' area of 80 square feet.
The SDB's public relations manager Sandra Lee San-san declined to reveal the number of associations who had given a reply regarding the relocation to Sports House.
But she said: ''We cannot release the actual number of replies because we do not want to affect the decisions of those associations who still haven't replied.''