By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
The pan-democratic lawmakers’ proposal to hold a hearing on the misuse of public funds in official trips as revealed by the Audit Commission (CA) was rejected at the legislature yesterday.
Au Kam San, Chan Wai Chi and Ng Kuok Cheong submitted the proposal in early March this year, after 10 public departments were found to have spent unnecessarily high amounts on hotels and meals during official trips.
The CA report revealed that officials from the Sports Development Board, for example, used over MOP 13,000 on a hotel room per night and over MOP 1,300 on a meal.
However, 17 lawmakers opposed the hearing yesterday and four abstained from voting (Kwan Tsui Hang, Ung Choi Kun, Chan Meng Kam and Ho Ion Sang). The proposal was only supported by three votes, from Au Kam San, Chan Wai Chi and José Pereira Coutinho (Ng Kuok Cheong was absent in the voting).
Lawmakers Chan Chak Mo, Tsui Wai Kwan, Vitor Cheung Lup Kwan, Vong Hin Fai, Mak Soi Kun and Lam Heong Sang said respectively before the voting that they deemed a hearing was not necessary or the right way to address the issue.
“A hearing would waste time, public funds and social resources, and also cannot solve the problem,” Chan said.
They said the government should update the rules on reimbursing expenses as soon as possible and the public departments also need to enhance transparency and communications with the public.
Some of them also called for a review on the legislature’s hearing mechanism, in a bid to prevent it from being “manipulated by certain lawmakers” and becoming a “political tool”.
Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On on June 20 issued a dispatch that set new guidelines for official trips in response to the CA report. It states that civil servants should undertake a “careful evaluation” of all expenses while on official missions, making sure they are “reasonable and appropriate to the nature and purpose of the trip”.