My Take
PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 April, 2014, 3:11am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 April, 2014, 3:11am

Hong Kong's Mega Events Fund lacks bang for its buck

BIO

Alex Lo is a senior writer at the South China Morning Post. He writes editorials and the daily “My Take” column on page 2. He also edits the weekly science and technology page in Sunday Morning Post.
 

When the head of a government body admits its operations need to be reviewed, you know something is seriously wrong.

So after the government auditor released a scathing report on the Tourism Commission's Mega Events Fund, Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung, the fund's chief, grudgingly acknowledged a review was now called for.

It's a bit late for that. Under Lam, the fund has been wasteful on events that did little to enhance Hong Kong or entertain the public while rejecting others that might have achieved those purposes.

The fund needs to be overhauled, starting with Lam's replacement. Better, why not just scrap the fund?

The auditor has accused the fund of overstating attendances and job creation and of spending irregularities. Some of the claims by the fund are almost comical.

It claimed events it funded since March 2012 attracted 900,000 people and created 10,000 jobs. The auditors said the fund counted passers-by who might have been just walking past the events held in open areas. Job creation claims were also often meaningless or absurd, as the events lasted for one or a few days and contributed nothing to the labour market.

At the annual Dragon and Lion Dance Extravaganza held on January 1 this year, 410 "jobs" the fund claimed to have created were actually tasks assigned to primary school and kindergarten students!

Some payroll records and invoices were also missing for three one-day events, which took a total of HK$3.9 million from the fund. These likely referred to the dragon and lion dance events held between 2011 and 2013.

The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong has been a driving force behind the annual events. Five of its members sat on the extravaganza's organising committee. It's time for the DAB to show us the books if there is nothing to hide.

At the 2012 Hong Kong Open golf tournament, which received a whopping HK$15 million from the fund, 93 per cent of the tickets were given to the venue provider and sponsors, among others. Oh, by the way, most of that amount went to pay golf ace Rory McIlroy, who promptly made an exit citing physical exhaustion.

The fund seems to specialise in getting the least bang for its buck.

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