Pressure to end overlaps by advisers

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 March, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 March, 2002, 12:00am

The Government has been urged to revamp its advisory committee system after an internal survey found nearly 10 per cent had duplicated the work of others.

One in every four committees also had no system for declaration of interests, the Home Affairs Bureau said.

The survey, to be discussed by the Legislative Council's Home Affairs Panel tomorrow, was carried out after Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa pledged to reform the advisory system to better gauge public opinion.

The bureau said nine per cent of the 634 bodies were considered to have duplicated others' roles and functions, without identifying those committees.

Officials, in a paper for lawmakers, said they had asked departments to consider the need to revamp or abolish the committees if they no longer achieved their roles or functions. It also suggested reviewing the system for declaring interests and weighing the need for further measures to improve openness.

Lau Siu-kai, associate director of the Chinese University's Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, said the Government should abolish many of the committees and improve the rest.

'The role of the committees and boards is to aggregate interests, and by doing that the Government can gain support for its policies. It also serves as an organ for the Government to pacify opposition and turn this into support in order to attract legitimacy. It is also a breeding ground for future politicians.' He said Government bureaus should place more emphasis on having committees to help in policy-making.

Democrat Andrew Cheng Kar-foo, vice-chairman of the home affairs panel, said a great many of the committees should be scrapped. 'They are political flower vases only,' he said.

Committee members' pay is capped at $735 per member for each attendance. But pay in financially autonomous non-government-funded public bodies is scrutinised.