Commission makes U-turn over board meeting minutes

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

The Equal Opportunities Commission initially refused to disclose minutes of its board meeting, but relented after the South China Morning Post raised the matter with the policy bureau that oversees the commission.

The Post filed a request to the commission on April 23 for the minutes of its June 19, 1997 board meeting at which it endorsed the purchase of life insurance for its staff and chairman.

A commission spokeswoman said the day after the Post's request that it had released minutes of meetings from the end of 2005 after adopting the recommendation of an independent panel report on the commission to release them.

'The minutes before then were confidential,' she said.

The commission's board agreed in September 1999 that meeting minutes should not be disclosed to the public because disclosure might inhibit frank discussion.

The commission agreed that requests for disclosure of minutes from commission meetings should be assessed on the 'merits of each individual request'.

The Post raised the issue with the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau last Tuesday. The commission then endorsed the Post's request for disclosure of the meeting minutes after discussion with the bureau and among commission members.

In a letter sent to commission members last Tuesday, secretary to the commission meeting, Michael Chan, said commission chairman Raymond Tang Yee-bong had agreed to release the minutes to the Post as his life-insurance package had become a matter of public interest.

It said the bureau believed there were public interest considerations and there was good justification for granting the Post's request.

A commission spokeswoman said its disclosure of the meeting minutes had nothing to do with the bureau referring the Post's request to the commission.

The Code on Access to Information does not apply to information held by statutory bodies.

Commission member Mandy Tam Heung-man said Mr Tang had sought members' views on the disclosure of the minutes a few days after the Post's request was rejected. She said the commission had no reasonable grounds to reject the request.

Fellow commission member Lo Wing-lok said the commission had a duty to disclose the minutes as it was a government-funded public body.