Events fund staff may get accounting help

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 April, 2014, 3:05am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 April, 2014, 3:05am

Civil servants with accounting expertise could be drafted in to help manage the Mega Events Fund after it was slammed by the government auditor for poor financial monitoring.

The under-fire fund was managed by six Tourism Commission civil servants with no accounting experience, Tourism Commissioner Philip Yung Wai-hung said in a radio interview yesterday.

And Yung defended the fund's record after the Audit Commission report said attendance and job creation figures for events supported by the fund were dubious and that receipts for the expenses of some events were missing.

Yung said the fund's secretariat worked hard with limited manpower to monitor the spending of public money.

"They are general officers, such as executive officers," without accounting experience, he said. Even so, only 69 per cent of applications the fund received were approved, and sanctions such as funding cuts were imposed on nine applicants who underperformed.

Officers with more accounting experience could be drafted in to help fix the problem, he said.

Since 2009, the fund has received HK$250 million in taxpayers' money to help not-for-profit bodies host cultural and sports events. Some HK$97 million has been spent on 24 events so far.

The auditor said invoice and payroll details for three events - thought to be the annual Dragon and Lion Dance Extravaganza from 2011 to last year - were missing. Two of the dance teams paid to join the festival were run by members of the organising committee, sparking concerns about a potential conflict of interest.

The organising committee also included at least five members of the Beijing-loyalist Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.

Yung did not directly address the question of whether the secretariat knew that members of the organising committee had not fully declared their interests when applying for the cash, but said all applicants had to make such a declaration.

The secretariat and the fund's assessment committee share responsibility for monitoring events benefiting from the fund and ensuring they are staged in line with its requirements.

The Democratic Party has filed a complaint about the dance extravaganza with the Independent Commission Against Corruption in the wake of the report.