Agencies told to sharpen their act

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 February, 2010, 12:00am

A Legislative Council committee that monitors whether public money is well spent has warned publicly funded organisations to improve their corporate governance.

The Hong Kong Productivity Council and the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data are criticised in a report by Legco's Public Accounts Committee following hearings in the wake of a damning Audit Commission report in November.

Tabling the committee's report, chairman Philip Wong Yu-hong hoped that all public organisations would learn a lesson from the failures of the two bodies. He said the two were only the latest in a series of cases of substandard corporate governance identified in recent years by the Audit Commission.

'All these have indicated that there is a lack of a corporate culture of compliance and prudence in the use of public funds, as well as inadequate emphasis on documentation in these organisations,' Wong said.

In its report, the committee expressed grave dismay and alarm at a 'manifest lack of compliance culture' in the productivity council over satisfying statutory requirements, regulations and procedures.

It found it appalling and totally unacceptable for the council to withhold information when seeking approval for remuneration packages.

The committee also expressed alarm at the council's failure to take effective measures to ensure proper management of its assets.

In the audit report, council executive director Wilson Fung Wing-yip was found to have received a 6.48 per cent pay rise - rather than the standard 6.3 per cent - an adjustment that was not formally approved.

The audit report also criticised the council for losing HK$57 million worth of computers, audio-visual and laboratory equipment.

On the privacy commissioner's office, the panel expressed dismay and concern over the government allowing 'the problem of non-compliance to persist for over a decade'.

The office is required to notify people filing complaints on privacy issues within 45 days if an investigation will not be done. It was found to have repeatedly failed to do so.

Despite being alerted to the problem as early as 1998, the government did not consider lengthening the 45-day requirement until August last year when a review was carried out.

Last night, a spokesman for the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau said it would study and follow up on the panel's recommendations.