The government’s Mega Events Fund (MEF) may have improperly allotted funds for many events including the Hong Kong Dragon and Lion Dance Festival (DLDF), the Hong Kong Audit Commission said in report released Wednesday.
The auditor also accused the MEF of poor oversight, and its event organizers of conflict interest. Among the charges were exaggerating the number of participants and inappropriate distribution of tickets.
The MEF was established and funded by the government to assist local non-profit-making organizations in hosting attractive arts, cultural and sports events in Hong Kong, aiming to boost tourism and create jobs. As of February, the fund had supported the hosting of 24 events, involving approved MEF funding of HK$97 million (US$12.5 million).
Giving examples of improper conduct, the audit commission said it found that the DLDF organizer had exaggerated the number of paid staff for an event held in early 2014. It hired only 1,850 people, even including at least 410 pupils and children who should not be counted as paid employees, but had in the funding agreement given an undertaking to create 3,000 jobs for performers of specified types for the event.
Meanwhile, related agents were employed by the organizer or major services were procured from associated service providers every year since the annual DLDF event started in 2011. Payment to related parties amounted to 36 to 48 percent of the total cost; meanwhile, the procurements and recruitments were not supported by any quotations, invoices, staff recruitment and payroll records with performers’ acknowledgement of receipt, the auditor said.
In addition, the DLDF organizer returned HK$280,000 unspent event balance to an unidentified sponsor, rather than to the government. There were also doubts whether some non-local performers invited to the DLDF had legal working permit.
The MEF Secretariat, on its part, had neither requested clarifications nor conducted additional checks.
In another event, the Hong Kong Open golf tournament, in which MEF approved funding accounted for about 31 percent of the total cost, it was found that 93 percent of the tickets were issued free to various parties, with only 7 percent sold to the general public and no special tourist packages developed for the event.
The auditor claimed the MEF failed to achieve its purpose of creating jobs as most of the jobs it offers were extremely short-term and temporary in nature, with many lasting for one to a few days only and having little or no impact on the labor market.
Chan Kam-lam, member of the Legislative Council and the DLDF’s Convener of the Preparatory Committee, was quoted as saying in an Apple Daily report Thursday that MEF’s major target is to enhance the tourism brand rather than create jobs. He didn’t comment on the charges of fake paid jobs number and the conflict of interest issue.
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