Productivity chief's handwritten alterations to speech challenged

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 December, 2009, 12:00am

When Productivity Council chairman Clement Chen Cheng-jen openly admitted yesterday that the council's management had been 'coarse, negligent and erroneous', he was, it turned out, not necessarily reflecting the views of his managers.

Chen's admission came in a speech to the Legislative Council's Public Accounts Committee in response to strong criticism in a report by the Director of Audit last month.

But when the speech was distributed to legislators, they found Chen had made several handwritten alterations to the original text - prepared by council director Tony Lam Chik-ting and approved by executive director Wilson Fung Wing-yip - which contained no such admissions. The difference was seized on by Civic Party lawmaker Alan Leong Kah-kit who asked whether the council's management and other board members subscribed to Chen's remarks.

'This is definitely so,' Chen said.

'I have said that in front of 600 staff of the council, and I have mentioned the changes to the speaking notes to the executive director,' he added.

He said that as chairman he was entitled to add his own comments.

Despite the lack of any such sentiments in the paper, Fung was also apologetic yesterday, admitting the council had been 'negligent' in introducing a new pay system under which he received a rise last year greater than that in the civil service.

The pair were speaking at the start of a hearing on the audit report, which questioned the governance and management of the Productivity Council, including low attendance of its board members at meetings, poor control of the council's inventory, and lack of control over salaries and bonuses.

Chen said the council had already implemented 43 of the 54 recommendations put forward by the Director of Audit.

The remaining 11 would be implemented within six to nine months.

He said the council had already been aware of its shortcomings, and had launched two consultancies to identify areas for improvement three years ago.

Of 84 recommendations in these studies, 64 had been implemented.

Reforms to the staff performance appraisal system, performance pay and medical benefits had already taken effect, he said.

Committee members criticised the council management for a lack of discipline when it allowed its two mainland subsidiaries to run at a loss.

Members also noted that the council paid out bonuses before performance appraisal reports were completed, and even before formal approval was received from the Innovative Technology Commission, which oversees it.

The audit report found that Fung was receiving more pay than he was entitled to and that the council board did not formally approve a change he made to his employment contract, giving him a rise of 6.48 per cent, rather than the 6.3 per cent applied to the civil service.