SCMP, October 9, 2002 By Chow Chung-yan The Examinations Authority has been accused of squandering public money at the expense of rank-and-file staff, who wrote to the education chief and legislators calling for an investigation. An anonymous letter from a group of staff members addressed to the Secretary for Education and Manpower, Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, and legislators listed the alleged wrongdoings in detail. It said management of the authority had squandered millions of dollars on 'white elephant' projects, expensive overseas trips and banquets at a time when it was facing a $30 million budget deficit. Rank-and-file staff had to regularly work overtime and might have to take welfare cuts to compensate for the loss, it said. The letter claimed the authority last year spent about $1 million sending top management to Europe, Australia and Shanghai for exchange programmes. Participants rarely gave reports of their visits after returning and did not contribute to the authority's development, the letter alleged. The authority was also accused of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in May to hold a banquet celebrating its 25th anniversary, despite opposition from some staff. The letter alleged management had wasted valuable resources on impractical projects such as releasing exam results on the Internet and conducting research studies at a cost several times higher than the market price. 'The management has been throwing money around to boost its image. We, on the other hand, are blamed for the financial difficulties and have to shoulder the heavy cost of its inefficient policy,' the letter read. It urged the Legislative Council and Mr Li to carry out a thorough investigation. Lawmaker Cheung Man- kwong, who represents the education sector, said the authority must respond. 'Nobody will tolerate squandering public money when we are all facing financial difficulties. The authority has some serious explaining to do.' Mr Cheung said there were insufficient checks on the authority's spending. The authority was not available for comment last night. * Note: The authority denied the allegations the day after the complaint was made. Glossary squander (v) to spend wastefully at the expense of (phrase) in a way that may be harmful to another person rank-and-file staff (n) people who form a major part of an organisation, excluding the leaders anonymous (adj) bearing no name or having an unknown name. You may also say a letter is unsigned, unnamed or unidentified. Incognito is another synonym for anonymous. For example: Their build makes it hard for sumo wrestlers to go incognito, and Takanonami did not even try. (SCMP, June 4, 2002) white elephant (n) a possession that is useless or troublesome, especially one that is expensive to maintain or difficult to dispose of rarely (adv) not often or seldom; however, remember that it does not mean 'never' shoulder (v) to accept the responsibility for something, such as a cost Example: German Defence Minister Peter Struck offered to join the Netherlands in taking joint command of the international security force in Afghanistan. It is that sort of military burden the US has long prodded its European allies to shoulder. (SCMP, September 29, 2002) Discussion points ? Do you agree with the authority staff that the project to release exam results on the Internet is impractical and a waste of valuable resources? Why? ? How about the 25th anniversary celebrations?