Auditor eyes spending at other public bodies

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 April, 2009, 12:00am

After highlighting lavish spending at the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Director of Audit said yesterday that other subsidised organisations and statutory bodies would be scrutinised.

And he did not rule out conducting value-for-money investigations on the Chief Executive's Office and major government bureaus.

The comments by Benjamin Tang Kwok-bun came as the government said it would listen to views from lawmakers and the public before deciding whether to renew the contract of EOC chairman Raymond Tang Yee-bong, due to expire next year.

'The investigations in the past few years have shown many [public bodies] have poor understanding of what constitutes good corporate governance. They also did not have good systems for handling money,' Benjamin Tang said in an RTHK interview.

'The issue of good corporate governance is starting to be a problem.'

In its latest six-monthly report, the Audit Commission criticised spending at the EOC, ranging from a HK$15,200 dinner in Beijing to paying a HK$320 speeding ticket, and buying 32 air purifiers for its office at a cost of HK$78,000.

The report put the spotlight on Raymond Tang for his generous hospitality and acceptance of hospitality items while on trips abroad. It said his life-insurance package, the premium for which last year cost HK$24,600, was not authorised by his contract.

Mr Tang has denied the EOC has done anything wrong and rejected charges it was a big spender. He has also dismissed suggestions that he should resign.

Benjamin Tang denied the Audit Commission was running a campaign of reprisal against public bodies, saying he was only trying to 'help them save money' and improve corporate governance.

Under his leadership since 2003, the Audit Commission has increasingly targeted public bodies and has issued a series of damning reports against organisations including RTHK, the Tourism Board, the Consumer Council and the English Schools Foundation.

Democratic Party vice-chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing said: 'Although it is right to expose big spenders like the EOC, the Audit Commission should also hunt some big tigers in government bureaus rather than giving people the impression of it being a government hit man.'

On an official visit to Guangzhou, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Stephen Lam Sui-lung, whose bureau has a portfolio dealing with the EOC, said the government was considering contractual matters regarding its chairman.

Asked whether Raymond Tang's contract would be renewed when it expired next year, Mr Lam said the government would 'listen very carefully' to views from the legislature, new board members of the EOC, and members of the public before making a decision. He said he had already written to Mr Tang urging the EOC to implement recommendations by the Audit Commission.