Bumper pay days for charities' senior execs

Local | 14 Mar 2017

Top executives at 15 non-governmental organizations were paid huge cash allowances - amounting to HK$6 million in 2015 - on top of big salaries, a union found.

Over the past six months, the Social Welfare Organisation Employees Union, using annual reports of 60 social welfare organizations, investigated salaries for the 2014-15 fiscal year. The union, an affiliate of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, found that the allowances were on top of hundreds of thousands of dollars in salaries for the executives of the 15 NGOs.

The investigation revealed that the Hong Kong Chinese Women's Club elderly services director - an equivalent post to a senior social work officer in the Social Welfare Department - received the biggest allowance of HK$414,825.

This means that the director, who has an annual salary of HK$1.84 million, gets a total pay package of HK$2.15 million.

"After deducting the provident fund and non-monetary welfare, the annual salary of the elderly services director still reaches HK$1.65 million, which is HK$710,000 more than the same level in the Social Welfare Department, and HK$510,000 more than the last point on the Master Pay scale," union general secretary Yau Chi-hang said.

The Po Leung Kuk and Neighbourhood Advice Action Council were next on the list, with top-tier staff pocketing HK$254,278 and HK$236,610, respectively.

Among the 15, excluding six organizations whose salary levels cannot be directly compared with the department's, six of their first-tier staff's salaries are higher than the last point on the Master Pay Scale.

"In the case of the Chinese Women's Club, the total salary of the top three tiers accounted for over 10 percent of the subvention," Yau said. "As all the money involved is from the public, we question whether the allowances paid to manager levels are in conflict with the principle of funding, and if public money is being abused."

The union also warned the situation is just "the tip of the iceberg," as 98 social welfare organizations, including Tung Wah Group of Hospitals - which receives HK$900 million in subvention every year - are exempted from releasing senior staff salary reports. The government and the public cannot monitor the use of HK$2.8 billion yearly subvention.

It called on the government to urgently set up guidelines to restrict social welfare organizations' staff from being paid more than civil servants of the same ranking. It also urged the government to review the lump-sum grant system, which was introduced in 2000, allowing NGOs to use public money however they see fit.

The department said NGOs can set their own salary policy under the lump- sum grant and will upload annual financial reports and review reports of salaries of NGOs' top three-tier staff this month to enhance accountability.

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