EOC chairman's budget too much for one-day seminar, say members
The chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission, Raymond Tang Yee-bong, has been accused by his members of wanting to spend too much money on a one-day seminar on disability discrimination.
An anonymous fax sent to the South China Morning Post yesterday indicated Mr Tang had to cut his proposed budget of HK$500,000 to HK$350,000 for the event, held at the Convention Centre yesterday, following disapproval by some commission members during an internal meeting in December.
Among the complaints against Mr Tang, who was appointed for a five-year term in 2005, was one over his decision to pay for the transport and accommodation of seven mainland guests who did not speak at the event, and for an assistant of Zheng Gongcheng, a guest speaker at the event and a member of the Standing Committee of the 10th National People's Congress.
Lo Wing-lok, who has sat on the commission for three years, said many commission members did not support the HK$500,000 budget put forward by Mr Tang. 'Many of us felt the budget was way too much for a one-day seminar,' he said. 'For example, do you really need to use the rooms in the Convention Centre? I think we could find another proper venue to host the event at a third of the money we spent on the venue.'
Some members also felt the budget for a VIP room in which speakers could rest, souvenirs, a backdrop and a ramp for the disabled to get onto the stage were extravagant, he said.
Dr Lo said the chairman later revised his proposal and reduced the amount to HK$350,000. The amended proposal was circulated among the members via e-mail. 'We noticed that only about four of 11 mainland guests would be speaking,' he said. 'We wondered why we had to foot the bill for the others as well.'
Dr Lo and another commission member, legislator Mandy Tam Heung-man, said yesterday there also appeared to be a conflict of interest in Mr Tang chairing both the commission and its secretariat, which effectively meant he was monitoring his own work. The issue, and that of budget monitoring, would be tackled at the next meeting, they said.
Commission spokeswoman Mariana Law Po-chu said last night the original HK$500,000 budget for the disability discrimination meeting was only a rough estimate.
'The point of holding a commission meeting was to hear the views of members on the budget proposal,' she said. Mr Tang cut the amount 'because he rightfully took into account the views of the members'. The mainland guests were invited for exchange purposes, she said.
Mr Tang, meanwhile, said the commission had told the government of a need for a separate fund for litigation. They could take few cases to court because of limited funds.
He said he hoped the government would allow them to keep some of the savings for litigation instead of returning it to the government.
Mr Tangwas speaking after being asked what kind of support the commission could offer to two elderly women and a deaf-mute person who had applied for legal aid to sue the Hospital Authority for infringing the Disability Discrimination Ordinance by requiring all public hospital patients to book visits on the phone.
Both the Society for Community Organisation and legislator Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung urged the authority to allow people who could not use the phone to seek medical help using the old means - queuing.
Since the queuing system was abolished in October 2006, everyone who wishes to visit a public hospital clinic has to make an advance phone booking. This is to enable elderly patients to see a doctor without joining a long queue as early as 5am.