Labour bureau’s ‘lie’ harms officials’ credibility: lawmaker

Friday, August 6, 2010
Issue 1082, Page 2
Word count: 878
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The Commission Against Corruption’s (CCAC) investigation report on the Labour Affairs Bureau’s (DSAL) raid on a local TV station has dismissed concerns about interference with freedom of the press but at the same time has exposed that the bureau lied to the public, which lawmaker Ho Ion Sang said may have damaged the perceived trustworthiness of principal government officials.

The DSAL declined to make any comments yesterday, as its media coordinator told the Macau Daily Times that they were preparing for a written response to be released to reporters.

In this year’s policy debate at the Legislative Assembly, secretary for Economy and Finance Francis Tam Pak Yuen clarified that no public departments would use any means to obstruct news reporting.

In order to prevent anyone from leaking information before an anti-illegal worker operation is conducted, Tam said the DSAL would put the anonymous letters into sealed envelopes, and then draw one out of the pile to decide on the inspection target just before it headed out together with the Public Security Police.

The DSAL gave the same explanation in the press release issued on March 20, two days after the operation at the Macau Asia Satellite TV (MASTV) headquarters was carried out where no illegal workers were found.

However, after the CCAC started investigating the incident, the bureau admitted that the inspection was decided after having analysed a tip received in an anonymous letter.

Directly-elected lawmaker Ho Ion Sang told the MDT yesterday that the “lie” has made local people doubt the principal government officials’ motive, and has also damaged their confidence in the Government.

“There are already guidelines [regarding how to handle complaint and anonymous letters] and so why the bureau didn’t follow them in this MASTV inspection?” Ho said.

“And why [the DSAL] had to tell such a big lie? It must have to give the public an explanation and find out what’s gone wrong. This situation can’t happen again,” he added.

Since the investigation report disclosed that the DSAL only accepted “part of the advice” from CCAC, the lawmaker also urged the bureau to explain it.

Ho said the most important thing right now is that the bureau can implement a review based on the report in order to prevent a repetition of the MASTV incident in the future.

Asked whether it is necessary for the DSAL to apologise to MASTV, he said it depends on how the bureau explains to the public at a later time.

Ho also told the MDT that the entire incident has exposed a lack of coordination and communication between public departments.

It is because, he said, the CCAC had previously made suggestions to the DSAL concerning the illegal worker inspection mechanism, but the two sides had different points of view on the matter.

“It is a division of work but doesn’t mean that the departments can ignore each other. Cooperation is necessary to perfect the work,” he said.

Nevertheless, Ho praised the CCAC for having effectively executed its duties to monitor the administrative procedures within the Government.

Report sends a ‘wrong message’

In contrast to his compliment, another directly-elected lawmaker Kwan Tsui Hang told the MDT that the investigation reports seems to suggest that the CCAC is not “familiar with the operations of the DSAL and what society demands”.

Yet, Kwan stressed that she agrees with the report in some sense that there are “flaws” in the administration of the bureau.

She said that the problem is not whether the bureau decided on the place to inspect by drawing lots, but that a “wrong message” may have been conveyed to the public by the report that it is wrong for the DSAL to take actions upon receiving anonymous tips.

“Society has been hoping the authorities put more efforts in combating illegal workers,” Kwan said, adding nowadays sending anonymous letters is probably the only way local workers can as most of them fear that they will be fired by the employers.

In addition, Kwan stressed that the DSAL does not have the power to investigate, but only has the authority to inspect places where illegal workers may be found.

“The CCAC seems to have made a mistake because the bureau can’t investigate into the case before the inspection… only the police can do so,” she said.

According to Kwan, only by “physically going to the venue and checking the employees’ identification documents can the DSAL confirm whether they’re working legally or not”.

She also criticised the CCAC for not having provided any specific suggestions regarding how the DSAL can enhance the inspection mechanism and administration.

Labour Bureau ‘admits mistakes’

In the press statement released late last night, the Labour Affairs Bureau said it has attached “great importance to the investigation report’s content and advice”.

The bureau said it agreed with the problems highlighted by the Commission Against Corruption, and also admitted that “due to the internal communication problems, there were errors in the handling and information dissemination process of a specific case”.

According to the statement, the bureau is currently studying the seven advice given in the report and reviewing the related work flow in the hope to further enhance the existing mechanisms as well as to gradually carry out internal adjustments.

No further response was given in the statement.

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