A social policy expert has called for stricter rules on the allocation of district council funds for community involvement projects, saying that loose regulation has led to irregularities, Ming Pao Daily reported.
Dr. Chung Kim-wah, director of the Center for Social Policy Studies at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said a “council members’ interest comes first” mentality is prevalent in many district councils, and this is due to two factors: loose gate-keeping over the allocation of funds and the fact that most councils are controlled by the pro-establishment camp.
To guard against irregularities, council members who might have “conflict of interest” issues with regard to particular projects should be barred from participating in the fund appropriation process, Chung said.
However, he said the government tends to turn a blind eye to such cases because it relies on the district council members for support.
The government allocates more than HK$10 million (US$1.29 million) to the 18 district councils every year, which the councils appropriate for community projects handled by local organizations.
Research by Ming Pao found that quite a number of district councils allocate funds for organizations where council members are either core members or officers.
For this year alone, eight district councils allocated a combined HK$7 million for such organizations, including art and culture groups, arts councils and recreational associations.
Funds have been automatically reserved for many of these organizations, which don’t even need to submit applications to secure the financial assistance, the newspaper said.
The report cited the case of the Eastern District Arts Council, whose first vice chairperson is Fong Choi-peng. Fong also happens to be the chair of the Eastern District’s funds review committee.
Eastern District Council member Chung Shu-kun, who chairs the Eastern District Arts Council, said he is chairman of the arts council only in name with no actual power or personal interest involved.
The arts council has to take care of all its expenses, he said.
He also said all members of the district’s funds review committee are required to disclose any interest in an organization under review before funds are appropriated.
– Contact us at [email protected]