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Promulgation of general guidelines on the bestowal of gifts and official meals

     The Government said today (January 17) that it has already introduced new guidelines reminding public officers to refrain as far as possible from bestowing gifts or souvenirs during the conduct of official activities. It has also revised the existing guidelines requiring public officers to uphold the principle of economy when entertaining guests for official purposes.

     On September 12 last year, the Chief Executive released the Report of the Independent Review Committee on the Independent Commission Against Corruption's Regulatory Systems and Procedures for handling Official Entertainment, Gifts and Duty Visits (the Report), and tasked the Civil Service Bureau and the Administration Wing of the Chief Secretary for Administration's Office to make reference to the Report in reviewing government guidelines pertaining to official entertainment, gifts and duty visits.

     After a comprehensive review, it is stipulated in the new guidelines that where it is considered necessary or unavoidable to bestow gifts or souvenirs due to operational, protocol or other reasons, such items should not be lavish or extravagant and the number should be kept to a minimum. Gifts or souvenirs should only be made from organisation to organisation. Gifts or souvenirs should be inscribed or borne permanently with the name or logo of the Government or that of the relevant bureau or department. Moreover, public officers may bestow publications of the Government or other publications/books which help promote the image or characteristics of Hong Kong.

     "The new guidelines are in line with the Government's green policy. They further reinforce the principles of upholding a high standard of integrity and proper use of public funds," said a Government spokesman.

     Public officers should exercise economy in order to avoid any public perception of extravagance when entertaining guests for official purposes. According to the guidelines issued today, officers hosting official meals should aim to spend no more than $450 per person for lunch or $600 per person for dinner, inclusive of all expenses incurred on food and beverages consumed on the occasion, service charges and tips. The costs of food and beverages that are separately procured and provided for consumption at the same official meal should also be taken into account in the overall expenditure.

     The Government has taken a prudent and pragmatic approach in reviewing the expenditure limits of official meals, taking into account various factors including the movement of the relevant Consumer Price Indices over time, the market situation, operational needs of the Government, the principle of economy in the proper use of public funds and so forth. The review aims to maintain the expenditure limits at a reasonable level.

     "The HKSAR Government has always exercised stringent controls in the use of public funds. According to the general guidelines on official entertainment and bestowal of gifts, any exception must be approved by directorate officers in the relevant bureau/department and be documented," the spokesman stressed.

     As regards duty visits, there are regulations prescribing requirements in areas such as the class of air travel, subsistence allowance outside Hong Kong, etc. After the review, the Government has reminded public officers that they should strictly abide by these requirements, and record in detail and seek approval for every application for duty visits in order to ensure proper use of public funds.

Ends/Friday, January 17, 2014
Issued at HKT 14:30


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