EOC head says he will not get new contract

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 May, 2009, 12:00am

Equal Opportunities Commission chairman Raymond Tang Yee-bong said the government was unlikely to renew his contract when it expired in January next year given the spate of criticism he has faced recently over indiscreet spending and governance problems at the commission.

Speaking after the third hearing of the Legislative Council Public Accounts Committee into a critical Audit Commission report on his commission, Mr Tang said the government would consider filling his post by open recruitment when his term expired. In that event, he was disinclined to contest the position.

'I have been [serving] in the post for five years already,' he said. 'It has been a long time. There should be new ways of thinking and new ways of doing things.'

Mr Tang's five-year tenure as chairman of the commission began on January 12, 2005, and is to expire on January 11 next year.

Last week, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Stephen Lam Sui-lung said that, pending the Public Accounts Committee's conclusion, he would consider recommending that the chief executive conduct an open-hiring exercise for the next commissioner.

Mr Tang has faced criticism since the release of an audit report last month that revealed a spendthrift commission and loose compliance with purchasing rules. He was also asked by some commission members to resign, although a motion to that effect was rejected at a commission meeting on Wednesday.

Panel members yesterday criticised Mr Tang for taking out life insurance cover for himself, a portion of which was paid for by the commission, worth more than HK$7 million or equivalent to three years of his salary. Mr Lam had said the chairman was not entitled to such a benefit under his conditions of service.

Mr Tang admitted he had been negligent about exceeding the restriction in relation to life insurance, but that he had followed the practice adopted by his predecessors since 1997. He was ready to return his share of the premium if required.

Panel members also criticised the commission for having spent HK$12.8 million on two litigations that the audit commissioner described as time-consuming and which had significant financial consequences. In one of the cases, the judge had dismissed the claim as 'completely without merit'.