‘Accountability’ missing in the govt’s dictionary

Monday, June 29, 2009
Issue 747, Page 2
Word count: 516
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

Now the importance of a principle officials accountability system is even more prominent. Fernando Chui Sai On, the former Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture, can now rest assured that Macau’s top job is already in his bag. From the first day when he announced his resignation to the day when the Chinese State Council approved his move, the whole process took only two days. How effective it was. And yes, a principal official who led the social affairs and cultural areas for nearly a decade could easily get away from the position in order to have himself promoted to the chief of Macau who earns more than 190,000 patacas in cash a month. Really, what does he has to lose?

The absence of an accountability system in Macau means that the SAR government is unable to hold top civil servants accountable for their wrong doings or job performance. In Hong Kong, such system was introduced by the then Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa in 2002. Although criticisms have been drawn over the system’s effectiveness, it did at least force Financial Secretary Leung Kam Chung, Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food Yeoh Eng Kiong and Secretary for Security Regina Ip Lau Suk Yee step down due to public pressure.

Ever since Chui announced his decision to run for the third Chief Executive Election, concerns have been raised in society about his competency and appropriateness to lead the territory. Not only is Chui from one of Macau’s big clans that people doubt may make him prone to corruption, but the seriously over-spending 2005 East Asian Games was also deemed to be the “biggest blot” on his term of office for the Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture. Even though the Audit Commission afterwards heavily criticised the East Asian Games for the confusion in financial arrangements and lack of efficiency and effectiveness that eventually led to a total cost of 4.4 billion patacas, neither the government nor Chui had given a direct response to the waste of public funds at that time.

Not much of a surprise no official had to shoulder political responsibility for the controversy. Some people tried to justify the over budget by pointing out the fact that it was the first time for Macau to host and organise such a large-scale sports event. But even if Chui should not get all the blame, I reckon Macau residents deserved a clear government explanation, not to mention an apology, for the misuse of their money.

Apart from meeting the basic requirements listed in the Chief Executive Election Law, one could become a candidate as long as he or she is able to acquire a minimum of 50 nominations from the Election Committee. It may sound unrealistic, but if in the future any government officials who wished to run for the Chief Executive Election would be required to first have their job performance formally reviewed and only those who obtained a certain rating could be qualified, the winner shall be likely to receive more support from society even though he or she isn’t elected through universal suffrage.

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