Civil service spends HK$25 correcting 80 cent slip-up

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 October, 2016, 5:52pm

Hong Kong's civil servants have just cemented their reputation as obsessive bureaucrats.

Election officials found an error of 80 cents - or HK$0.809 to be precise - and then spent HK$25.40 to put it right.

The Registration and Electoral Office found the slip-up in the campaign accounts of Markus Shaw, who ran unsuccessfully last year for a seat on the Election Committee which selected the chief executive in March.

It then spent HK$25.40 to send a letter to Shaw, a grand-nephew of media mogul Run Run Shaw. Taxpayers paid HK$24 for it to be sent by registered post and HK$1.40 for a stamp.

The letter, which Shaw received on Friday, told him to re-submit his accounts within 30 days, accompanied by a declaration sworn in front of a Justice of the Peace or a solicitor.

While the office does not want the money, it does want to ensure the accounts are accurate.

"Should we applaud the relentless efficiency of our civil service, or decry its time-wasting stupidity?" Shaw, a businessman and environmentalist, asked.

The answer to that was clear to Dr Ma Ngok, a political scientist at Chinese University. "I don't think the tiny amount of cash involved would affect the fairness of the election, let alone the outcome," Ma said.

"We are not talking about an error concerning hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"Why didn't the office devote more time and resources to verifying voters' addresses that are in doubt?" he added.

A spokesman for the Registration and Electoral Office said the purpose of sending the notification letter by double-registered post - where proof of receipt is posted back to the sender - was to have a record of when Shaw was notified of the false statement in his accounts.

The office would not comment on individual cases, he added.

During his campaign, Shaw, who ran on a platform of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Election Committee poll, called on business leaders to move beyond their sectoral interests.