Monthly claims cover genuine expenses, lawmakers insist
Fanny W. Y. Fung and Ng Kang-chung
Lawmakers have defended the way they submit claims for travel and entertainment without receipts, saying their spending needs are genuine.
Frederick Fung Kin-kee, of the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood, said the total reimbursement he claimed could not cover his Legislative Council expenses.
'I have hired more than 10 people in my office to help me with Legco affairs. For a legislator who serves a constituency with a population of 1 million, this cannot be said to be unreasonable,' said Mr Fung, a representative for Kowloon West.
Each Legco member may claim a maximum of HK$164,390 a year - or an average of HK$13,699 a month - for travel and entertainment without presenting proof. Between October and February, 17 legislators routinely claimed HK$13,000 or more a month, the Post reported yesterday.
Democratic Party legislator Andrew Cheng Kar-foo, who has claimed HK$13,699 a month since October, conceded the money was used to cover other office spending.
'[Under other categories,] for example, it is impossible for us to claim money for buying a blood-pressure-measuring machine, which is used for helping elderly people measure blood pressure in district activities. We also have to increase salaries when some staff members want to quit. Therefore, this petty cash is for flexible use.'
Cyd Ho Sau-lan of Civic Act-up said: 'I usually take taxis, and taxi expenses usually take up over HK$5,000 a month.'
Another Democratic Party legislator, James To Kun-sun, said: 'In a single Chinese New Year banquet [that he hosted], it cost me several tens of thousands of dollars.'
Mark Fong Chung, former president of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants, said it was normal practice for organisations to allow claims without receipts for petty items. But he said it was wrong to claim irrelevant expenses under these accounts.
'If users find their budgets under other categories insufficient, they should seek additional funds under the relevant heading instead of pushing them to alternative accounts.'