Expenses code is nominal, modest and reasonable
The corporate governance level at the government-funded Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI) makes one wonder whether it is typical of such bodies or a one-off.
Thanks to the Audit Commission, we understand the bearers of Hong Kong's scientific hopes spent HK$181,000 on seeking the advice of fung shui masters on office layout at least four times between April 2002 and January last year.
Worse still, it appears to have lost complete control on everything from its board of directors (one independent director missed all his 21 meetings) to executives' overloading expenses, even lunch bills - in one case 26 of the institute's staff took nine guests for lunch.
However, not all research organisations are black sheep. Lai See discovered that the Hong Kong Association of the Pharmaceutical Industry recently asked its members to adopt a code of pharmaceutical marketing practices.
In the appendix to the guidelines, the industry body went into detail on how to define three levels of business expenses, summarised below:
1) 'Nominal' means a maximum of HK$150 per promotional item.
2) 'Modest' means a maximum of a) HK$$400 per gift per healthcare professional per event; b) HK$400 per gift per healthcare professional per festive holiday; and c) HK$500 for condolence flowers for funerals per deceased healthcare professional only.
3) 'Reasonable' means a maximum of HK$350 per attendee for breakfast or lunch, and a maximum of HK$600 per attendee for dinner (excluding service charges/gratuity or incremental costs attributable to venue rental where necessary and identifiable).
The association finalised the guidelines last month, after they were unanimously passed by all 49 research and development member firms, according to president Steven Hardacre.
'We pushed really hard for this because everyone has a different definition of 'modest' and 'reasonable' - what one person thinks is 'reasonable' maybe two or three times what you think is 'reasonable',' said Mr Hardacre.
Fung shui's the way to go
Forget about cyber technology, Chinese pharmaceuticals or bio-technology. What Hong Kong should probably put more resources into is fung shui.
We are not talking about ASTRI or other government or institutional use of fung shui, but about individual hands-on practice.
This insight follows, not surprisingly, from the news that the heir of Nina Wang Kung Yu-sum's HK$100 billion estate could be her part-time fung shui master, Tony Chan Chun-chuen.
Mr Chan was reported to have used fung shui skills to try to bring back Wang's lost husband, Teddy Wang Teh-huei, in 1993, and eventually became her personal consultant on everything.
With the prospects of rewards like that, fung shui is definitely the next big thing to happen.
Victor bids PCCW farewell
Victor Fung Kwok-king, a long-time PCCW (and formerly Cable & Wireless HKT, and before that Hongkong Telecom) director, has resigned after 15 years of service.
The Li & Fung chairman, who has served as independent non-executive director since 1992, said he would not seek re-election after next month's annual general meeting.
Mr Fung (above), who is the second-longest serving director behind David Li Kwok-po (who joined in 1987) attended 14 out of 17 director meetings last year, a very strong record for a man extremely busy in public service and in business.
Bank boss at a loss
Spare a thought for Bank of China (Hong Kong) vice-chairman and chief executive He Guangbei. Last year, the man who led the blue-chip bank had a 3.6 per cent cut in salary despite helping to push profit up 3 per cent to a record HK$14 billion.
Out of his total HK$6.77 million compensation, Mr He had a 1.4 per cent cut in basic salary to HK$4.65 million, a 7.6 per cent reduction in his bonus to HK$1.81 million, and a 9.3 per cent drop in director's fee to about HK$300,000.
His salary reduction could indicate determination by parent Bank of China, which listed last June, to keep costs on a tight rein.
However, Mr He was still the highest-paid executive at BOC, followed by two executives, widely believed to be deputy chief executive Lam Yim-nam and chief financial officer Raymond Lee Wing-hung, one of whom made between HK$6 million and HK$6.5 million and the other between HK$5.5 million and HK$6 million.