Appointees more likely to receive honours

Appointed district councillors are more likely to receive government honours than their elected peers despite a lower rate of participation in council work, a study has found.

The observation was made by New Forum, a government-friendly political group, which concluded that appointed seats on district councils should be phased out.

The group yesterday released the report of its first study on district councillors' performance, conducted amid debate over the future of appointed council seats as the government launches a public consultation on constitutional reform.

The study examined attendance records of meetings held by the 18 district councils and their subsidiary committees in the current term, which began in January 2008. Figures for Yuen Long covered the period up to June last year, while those for Tai Po and Tuen Mun covered the period to last month. Those for all other districts covered the period to September last year.

There are 405 councillors directly elected by residents, 102 appointed by the chief executive and 27 ex-officio councillors who are chairmen of rural committees in the New Territories.

The study found that 63 per cent of elected councillors had attended more than 90 per cent of meetings during the period, while 54 per cent of appointees and 37 per cent of ex-officio members had done so.

Elected councillors also joined more committees than others. A majority - 86 per cent of them - had enrolled in more than half of the committees in their respective districts, whereas 74 per cent of appointed councillors and 63 per cent of ex-officio councillors had done so.

As for airing opinions, elected deputations outstripped their colleagues in terms of number of written submissions to councils. Eighteen per cent of elected councillors had submitted more than five papers during the study period, compared with 15 per cent of appointed councillors. No ex-officio member had made more than five submissions.

These figures contrasted with the recognition the government gave to different types of councillors, the report noted.

More than half (52 per cent) of ex-officio councillors and 46 per cent of appointed councillors had received government honours and awards or had been named justices of the peace by last year - much higher than the 23 per cent of elected councillors.

'Does the government find appointed councillors' contributions bigger? If so, why doesn't it just eliminate district elections and appoint all councillors by itself?' said Chan Wai-keung, who was responsible for the study. He is a board member of New Forum and an elected district councillor in Yau Tsim Mong.

Chan said the situation could create a conflict of interest as appointees, who often sided with the government, were likely to be rewarded with honours. The group called for appointed seats to be phased out rather than removed in one hit.

Poor show

Percentage of appointees who attended more than 90 per cent of meetings: 54%