Dragon dance event organiser defends dubious accounts

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 May, 2014, 4:45am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 May, 2014, 4:45am

The organiser of a dragon dance parade has defended itself against a government watchdog's report that called it to task over its messy accounts.

The Dragon and Lion Dance Extravaganza has received HK$5.3 million from the government's Mega Events Fund since 2011 for its annual New Year's Day event.

For this year's parade on January 1 in Tsim Sha Tsui, it received HK$1.5 million, the Audit Commission stated in a report on the fund last month.

But the commission pointed out that there were only 1,850 performers at one event, instead of the claimed 3,000 paid performers. And of the 1,850 performers, at least 410 were kindergarten and primary school pupils, it said.

The commission also found invoices for the event's expenses missing, sparking concerns about misuse of public money. The dance extravaganza is understood to be the event in question.

Ha Tak-kin, vice-convenor of the parade's preparation committee, said pupils and other performers from non-professional groups, including prisoners, were not "paid performers".

He said the expenses incurred from inviting these performers included hiring coaches and assistants, renting performance props, transporting these props and hiring movers.

Ha's company, Ha Tak Kin Martial Art Society, was involved in hiring professional performers. Ha said his company paid these performers on behalf of the preparation committee after each event, and that he had declared this to the committee's secretariat. The committee also includes a member of Ha's firm.

"My company and I have spared no efforts in providing suggestions and plans for the parade based on our experiences in organising large dragon and lion dance events over the years," Ha said. "We did not charge for many site visits and department meetings."

The committee, which includes at least five members of the Beijing-loyalist Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, was given up to May 1 to submit its financial reports for this year's event to the Tourism Commission, which oversees the Mega Events Fund.

But the reports were not submitted until May 9.