Lax official monitoring of EOC draws fire

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 October, 2016, 5:52pm

The government has been criticised for its lax monitoring of the Equal Opportunities Commission over the approval by the commission of life- insurance packages for its staff and chairman in 1997.

According to the minutes of a meeting of the commission's board on June 19, 1997, Helen Tang, then principal assistant secretary for home affairs who attended the meeting as the government's representative, did not query the proposal.

The package covered the commission chairman despite the fact that such remuneration and benefits come solely under the purview of the then governor.

The minutes, which were obtained by the South China Morning Post, showed that no commission members questioned the need to provide staff with life insurance.

Two commission members said Ms Tang's failure to query the proposal was indicative of the government's lax monitoring of the commission.

A Director of Audit report released two weeks ago noted that commission chairman Raymond Tang Yee-bong's life-insurance package, the premium for which last year cost HK$24,600, was not authorised.

The audit report recommended that the commission seek specific approval from the administration for the provision of life-insurance coverage for its chairman.

Ms Tang, now principal assistant secretary for labour and welfare, declined to comment on whether she knew in 1997 that the EOC chairman's remuneration and benefits should be determined by the governor, and that his life-insurance package was unauthorised

'As the EOC is now under the portfolio of the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, you may contact the bureau or the EOC on issues relating to the audit report,' Ms Tang said.

Fanny Cheung Mui-ching, who was commission chairwoman at the time, did not reply to a Post inquiry.

Ma Ngok, a political scientist at Chinese University, said many government representatives on statutory bodies often only attended meetings occasionally.

Many were unfamiliar with their operation. 'They define their role as transmitting messages to and from their own bureaus or departments and are not aware of their role in monitoring the relevant statutory bodies,' Professor Ma said.

'The phenomenon is also notable in other statutory bodies.'

Commission member Lo Wing-lok said Ms Tang had made an oversight.

'Government officials have seldom attended EOC meetings since I was appointed as a commission member in 2005,' he said.

'That's why the government had no idea of the lavish spending at the commission in recent years.'

Dr Lo said the government had kept a distance from the commission in the wake of the scandals surrounding it in 2003.

Fellow commission member Mandy Tam Heung-man agreed that the government's monitoring of the commission was 'very loose'.

The commission is a statutory body responsible for overseeing anti-discrimination legislation in Hong Kong.

During the 2008-09 year, it was funded by the government to the tune of HK$76.5 million.

The Legislative Council public accounts committee is to conduct a hearing on the EOC Audit report tomorrow.