Officials slammed over inaction on regulation of Hong Kong charities

Committee also criticises ineffective monitoring of fundraising, such as online appeals

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 July, 2017, 6:31am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 July, 2017, 6:31am

A Legislative Council committee has expressed “grave concern and dissatisfaction” over the government’s inaction over recommendations to better regulate charitable fundraising activities in Hong Kong.

The Public Accounts Committee said it was “unacceptable” for the Home Affairs Bureau to drag its feet for more than three years on 18 recommendations put forward by the Law Reform Commission in 2013 to deal with deficiencies in the regulatory framework.

It said the bureau should have offered a detailed response within 12 months.

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The bureau started an internal consultation process on the recommendations in 2014 but did not consolidate the views into a preliminary assessment paper until June 2015 and had only convened two inter-departmental meetings to follow up on the issue, the Public Accounts Committee found.

“The committee urges the Home Affairs Bureau to expedite the consultation with relevant bureaus and departments with a view to formulating a substantive response to the commission’s recommendations,” Public Accounts Committee chairman Abraham Razack told lawmakers on Wednesday.

The 13-page report by the committee was in response to an earlier Audit Commission investigation, which highlighted how the city’s rules on charities were riddled with loopholes.

The committee also expressed grave concern over the government’s limited monitoring of charitable fundraising activities, especially its failure to formulate effective measures to monitor new modes of fundraising, such as online appeals.

There was currently no consolidated legislation to regulate charitable fundraising activities, the committee noted.

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The monitoring of such acts is confined to the Social Welfare Department, Home Affairs Department or Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, which scrutinises licences or permits for traditional methods such as flag days and raffle ticket and on-street charity sales.

The committee urged the government to formulate measures to enhance the monitoring of these activities and cover the new modes of fundraising to protect the public from unscrupulous practices.

Home affairs chief Lau Kong-wah said the government had been following up the matter in the past few years, though he admitted progress was unsatisfactory.

“[The monitoring of charitable fundraising activities] involved 18 departments ... and it was therefore a rather complicated process. We hope to introduce some new measures as soon as possible,” he said.

The committee is set to deliver a separate report in October on the government’s support and monitoring of charities.