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LCQ13: Continuing Education Fund

    Following is a question by the Hon James To and a written reply by the Secretary for Education and Manpower, Professor Arthur K C Li, at the Legislative Council today (June 20):


     It has been reported that the number of complaints received by Consumer Council in relation to the Continuing Education Fund ("CEF") has substantially increased from one case last year to 10 cases in the first quarter of this year.  In addition, some 30 members of the public had made complaints about CEF to me last year.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) since the establishment of CEF,

(i) of the respective numbers of complaints received by the Education and Manpower Bureau ("EMB") and Consumer Council, with a quarterly breakdown of the complaints by subject matter;

(ii) of the number of substantiated complaints and names of the course providers concerned, and whether any course providers have been disqualified from offering CEF-approved courses as a result;

(iii) of the number of cases of delay in CEF reimbursement to students because the course providers concerned are under investigation;

(b) whether a course provider under investigation by EMB can still register students for its CEF-approved courses; whether the relevant authorities have issued guidance specifying that course providers, if under investigation, shall disclose so to students during enrolment, EMB has the right to request course providers which are under in-depth investigation to suspend enrolment of students, and CEF can reimburse students before an investigation is completed; and

(c) whether the removal by EMB of a course from the Reimbursable Course List will affect the eligibility of the students who are studying the course to claim reimbursement?


Madam President,

(a) Since the establishment of the Continuing Education Fund (CEF) in June 2002, the Office of the CEF (OCEF) has approved over 340 000 applications and about 6 200 courses have been registered as CEF-recognised courses.

(i) The Education and Manpower Bureau (EMB) has received a total of 141 complaints since the establishment of the CEF.  Quarterly breakdown of the complaints by category is set out in Annex I.

     In addition, the Consumer Council has received a total of 172 complaints relating to CEF courses during the same period.  Since the Consumer Council does not have quarterly breakdown of complaint figures, only annual breakdown can be provided and details are set out in Annex II.

(ii) Since the establishment of the CEF, a total of 104 complaints involving 41 course providers have been substantiated or partially substantiated after investigations by EMB.  Among those, 17 CEF courses operated by 5 course providers, namely Hong Kong Institute of Tourism, Aura Audio Visual Institute, President Education Centre, Transformatics College and English Language College, have been de-registered from the list of CEF-recognised courses due to serious breach of the approval conditions.  For the remaining 36 course providers, EMB has issued written warnings to them and they have rectified their non-compliance within the specified time limit.

(iii) Currently, there are five course providers under investigation by law enforcement agencies.  Since the cases may involve elements of fraud, OCEF must await the completion of the investigations by the law enforcement agencies before resuming the processing of the reimbursement claims concerned in order to safeguard public fund.  About 450 claimants are being affected.

(b) During investigation, if there is evidence that criminal elements may be involved, EMB will report the case to the relevant law enforcement agency and suspend temporarily the registration of the CEF course concerned.  We will also request the course provider to cease admitting new students to the courses concerned immediately.  After the law enforcement agency has completed investigation, we will re-examine whether the course concerned should be on the list of CEF-recognised courses.

     For cases not having criminal elements, should EMB investigations reveal that there is sufficient evidence of serious breach of the approval conditions by the course provider, we will inform the course provider in writing that the relevant CEF courses will be de-registered from the list on a specified date and request the course provider to cease admission of new students during the period of representation.  In parallel, OCEF will post the news related to the relevant courses, including courses that have been de-registered or temporarily suspended, on its website for public information.

     During investigation, OCEF will determine on a case-by-case basis whether disbursement of funds to the CEF claimants concerned should continue.  If initial investigation indicates that students are suspected of deceiving the CEF or providing false information, OCEF will suspend the disbursement of funds and report to the relevant law enforcement agency.  Otherwise, OCEF will continue to process the reimbursement applications.

(c) Generally speaking, a student who has already enrolled or commenced his course of study will not be affected by the de-registration of the course from the list of CEF-recognised courses.  As long as the claimant fully complies with the requirements for making reimbursement claims, including successful completion of the relevant course, OCEF will arrange to disburse funds after verifying the information provided by the claimant.

Ends/Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Issued at HKT 16:40


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