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Lax cash controls put public bodies on rack

ScarlettChiang

Thursday, February 04, 2010

A raft of publicly funded bodies have come under fire from lawmakers for wasting money, breaking their own rules and lacking internal controls.

The Legislative Council's public accounts committee has also slammed government-subvented organizations for the absence of a corporate culture and failing to do their job.

Committee chairman Philip Wong Yu-hong said yesterday that recent audit reports were damning.

"They indicate the lack of a corporate culture of compliance and prudence," he said.

Wong named the Productivity Council and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, which he criticized severely.

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He also attacked the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Hong Kong Tourism Board.

"All the government-subvented organizations should read our reports to improve their governance," he added.

Vice chairman Paul Chan Mo- po was equally scathing and said the bodies should be monitored better by the government.

"Some members have a low attendance rate at annual meetings. The government should consider not reappointing them," he said.

An audit report tabled by the public accounts committee described the Productivity Council's corporate governance as "appalling and totally unacceptable."

Inventory checks discovered the council lost 9,000 computers, audio-visual items and laboratory equipment worth more than HK$57 million.

It also paid out bonuses before getting formal approval from the authorities.

Council chairman Clement Chen Cheng-jen admitted management had been negligent and pledged to improve. The report also said it was dismayed and seriously concerned about irregularities at the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data.

These included not acting quickly enough to secure free accommodation that was offered by an event organizer during a trip to Britain in 2006 and spending HK$9,900 on hotels instead.


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