The row over whether schools criticised by the Director of Audit this week should be named and shamed grew yesterday as the Legislative Council committee that will scrutinise the report rejected a claim by the education minister that identifying the schools would breach the panel's procedures. Public Accounts Committee deputy chairman Paul Chan Mo-po said the public had the right to know about the Direct Subsidy Scheme schools that were accused of poor governance and misuse of funds. Chan was speaking at a meeting of the committee held to discuss the report, a day after Secretary for Education Michael Suen Ming-yeung refused to name the schools, saying his hands were tied by the procedures. The committee decided to hold a public hearing on the report on November 29. Chan said while there was an agreement between government bureaus and the committee that no parties should make public comments before hearings were completed, this did not apply in the case of schools. 'Such information should be in the public arena,' he said. Committee member Ronny Tong Ka-wah also saw no problem in making the information public now, saying: 'There's no need to wait for the public hearing. We don't object to the [education] bureau releasing the information at the current stage.' The committee has sent a formal letter to the bureau asking for the information to be sent to lawmakers. Tong, a Civic Party legislator, said the bureau should stop treating the committee as a shield and release the information as soon as possible. But Suen reiterated his stance, saying: 'We need to follow the committee's procedures. Although we won't reveal the information now, we will do so when we are asked to go to Legco to explain the issue.' Director of Audit Benjamin Tang Kwok-bun said parents' right to know was of the utmost importance. 'Schools' transparency and accountability should be enhanced. We are assessing the bureau, not individual schools,' he said. 'We only asked for information from schools to assess how the bureau went about its monitoring. The information is theirs, not that of the audit commission. It's the bureau's decision on whether to make it public or not.' The severity of the irregularities mentioned in Wednesday's report, which included using school funds to buy equities and using investment funds to buy properties, brought demands for the bureau to strengthen oversight of the 72 direct subsidy schools, which have 63,000 students. These schools enjoy far greater flexibility in administration than aided and government schools. They can lay down their own manpower recruitment policies and curriculum arrangements. While charging tuition fees, they also receive an annual government subsidy based on enrolment numbers. The schools received HK$2.42 billion in recurrent government funding in the last academic year. The report found that 30 per cent of them had reserves of HK$30 million or more, with the highest for a single school being HK$220 million. Parent representatives from Logos Academy in Tseung Kwan O, one of two of the criticised schools to be named by the media, came out yesterday to defend it. On a charge that it used HK$10 million in school funds to buy three properties, last year's parent association president, Chan Yin-keung, said the school had informed it of the plan to use reserves for the purchase at a banquet for parents held earlier. Addressing an allegation that the school kept HK$160,000 in parents' donations intended for victims of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, Wong Kwan-ying, the parent association president that year, said the school did not pocket the money. 'The donation drive was organised by the parents, and we raised HK$550,000. HK$390,000 was used to buy plastic chairs. The remaining amount is earmarked for training to be held later in Hong Kong for Sichuan principals and teachers.' Chan said he and other parents had seen ledgers showing that the remaining donations were put in the accrual section of the accounts, meaning the money did not belong to the school, adding: 'We thought that there was no problem in the money being kept by the school.' The incident had damaged the school, Wong said, adding: 'With the exception of schools that were found to have broken the law, why make public the information of those who were involved in administrative irregularities? The effects are too far-reaching.'