How many of us have piles of old bank statements, tenancy agreements, utility bills, receipts and registration documents stashed away in a cupboard, drawer or box? Everyone? Like me, you probably shove that sort of thing somewhere out of the way in the assumption you'll probably never need it, but you should hang on to it for a few years, just in case.
It's hard to believe, but such a basic approach to record-keeping is still more sophisticated than that used by the government. The South China Morning Post recently revealed that six of Hong Kong's 12 policy bureaus had not stored a single file in the government archives in the past five years, despite all bureaus and departments being ordred to obtain consent before disposing of records.
For every document page transferred to the archive for permanent retention last year, 289 were destroyed.
The Post in December requested records relating to public funds paid as compensation for fung shui disruption caused by rail construction in the New Territories. Officials variously said the information had been destroyed, was kept by other departments or was not kept in the first place. One must wonder what the government is trying to hide.
Our bureaucrats either have damning secrets or they are more disorganised in their record-keeping than the most careless of drawer stuffers.