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  • Aug 30, 2014
  • Updated: 3:41pm
NewsHong Kong

Nearly 100 Hong Kong government bodies refuse to reveal bills in SCMP spending poll

Independent Police Complaints Council's entertainment expenses are in stark contrast with graft-buster's under Timothy Tong

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 November, 2013, 10:06am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 November, 2013, 5:00am
 

Poll

  • Yes: 93%
  • No: 7%
26 Nov 2013
  • Yes
  • No
Total number of votes recorded: 355

The independent police watchdog was the only one of around 100 government institutions that disclosed the full details of its spending on entertainment, overseas visits and gifts in a South China Morning Post survey.

The figures from the Independent Police Complaints Council suggest a far more frugal approach than the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) under its former commissioner, Timothy Tong Hin-ming, whose lavish five-year term prompted the Post’s survey.

The complaints council, or IPCC, hosted just 18 lunches from the time it was established in 2009 and June 30 last year, the date Tong’s term ended. In comparison, the ICAC held 900 lunches and dinners under Tong.

The remaining government bureaus, departments and related organisations declined to answer the Post’s questions through media enquiries or requests under the Code on Access to Information.

“A request for information which could only be made available by unreasonable diversion of a department’s resources may be refused,” a government spokesman said, citing the code.

The survey came as the Legislative Council’s Public Accounts Committee prepared to report today the results of its investigation into Tong’s spending, which first came to light in an audit report.

Members of the committee have promised a strongly-worded document in which they will “condemn” Tong for his “deplorable” behaviour.

Some details of Timothy Tong's expenses during his five-year tenure.

Just two of the IPCC’s lunches went slightly over the HK$350-per-head spending limit imposed by the government on official lunches.

“We considered that a private room was required for the lunch on October 27, 2011,” a spokesman for the IPCC explained. “The budget of HK$350 cannot meet the minimum consumption of booking a private room in most of the restaurants in Wan Chai [where the complaints council has its offices].

“Prior approval for a higher budget [a maximum of HK$400 per head] from the secretary general was sought for this occasion.”

The final bill for another lunch, on June 11 last year, totalled HK$398 after one of the guests failed to show up and share the costs.

Thirty-seven per cent of the meals hosted by Tong and booked under official entertainment expenses exceeded the HK$350 limit.

While Tong was revealed to have spent more than HK$720,000 on gifts, ranging from silk scarves to beef brisket and fish balls (his most expensive gift was an ornament worth about HK$5,000), the IPCC paid for just six souvenirs in three years.

“All these souvenirs carried the names of the IPCC, and had values ranging from HK$326 to HK$1,000,” the IPCC spokesman said.

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11

This article is now closed to comments

John Adams
'A request for information which could only be made available by unreasonable diversion of a department’s resources may be refused,” a government spokesman said, citing the code'.
.
That is pure B - S - ! Freedom of Access to Information means precisely that. I have in the past placed formal requests for information under the Code of Access which required many tens of man-hours of work on the part of the govt dept involved, and in every case the dept gave me the information, even though much of it was quite sensitive and certainly difficult to retrieve
.
If you look on TED.com you will find a presentation by Heather Brook who tried for several years to get the UK govt to give details of the personal allowance spending of MPs. She was fobbed off at every step by ridiculous excuses ( such as the one above) for over 6 years, until someone within the govt walked out of his office one day with everything on one disc and sold it to the Daily Telegraph.
.
I recall that 7 x MPs and 4 x Lords did prison time and half the House of Commons could not stand for re-election ( or something like that!).
.
So what do 99 / 100 govt depts have to hide ?
Can they at least tell us the total of what they each spent on entertainment as a % of their annual staff cost operating budget ?
That's a 5 minute job !
chuchu59
This pic of TONG could be used as promo material for the new version of 'The hills have eyes' Really eerie-looking eyes.
There is no reason why 100 government bureaux/departments cannot provide at least some info on their entertainment. Maybe fine details require time but most of the info SCMP requires can be obtained at the click of a button. Perhaps the departments and bureaux had a tacit understanding with the Civil Service Bureau that they should stay united and not provide details as a bloc.
Seriously, the Audit Commission could start to look at this as this is taxpayer's money and any extravagance on the level of TONG should be frowned on. Should many departments have dubious cases where the expenditure limits were exceeded arbitrarily the Audit Commission should 'name and shame'.
lenali2003
The government should at least allow some info to be open to the public.
Being a city pursuing democracy , HK should grants her people the right to know what is going on in the departments.
It is actually an initial yet important step that HK has to take.
ianson
"Unreasonable diversion of a department’s resources may be refused” - our government looks more and more like its big brother, the CCP in Beijing. They have no compunction in spouting utter tripe like this. If it would take any department more than three minutes to generate a report of such expenses, they should hang their heads in shame for their appallingly dilapidated accounting system and the Audit Office should descend on them instantly for maladministration.
tinglong.chan
Why did the Hong Kong government not listen to its resident ?
sipsip1238
The city's citizens want democracy, the city government listens to whatever their communist bosses say...what chance do we have to gain any type of transparency.
The stupid part is that a smarter communist government will create the illusion of transparency, apparently, that is even beyond our government's ability.
daily
No wonder so many people want to find and work in a government job...........that ways, they can get by on an average salary while they spend the public funds for their entertainment.
HK's government officals are no less corrupted than the officals in the mainland.........you can count on that.
gourihello@gmail.com
Outrageous! My precious tax dollars... the parasites abound in government and give it a bad name. Booooo!
pbhawk
Time for the ICAC methinks
 
 
 
 
 

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