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LCQ14: Sponsorships for national education promotional activities

     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Kenneth Chan and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (February 4):


     It has been reported that the Committee for the "Passing on the Torch" National Education Activity Series (the Committee) appointed by the Government is responsible for scrutinising and deciding whether programmes applying for sponsorships for national education promotional activities (sponsorships) offered by the Education Bureau (EDB) should be included in the "Passing on the Torch" National Education Activity Series ("Passing on the Torch" Series). Programmes included in the Series will have priority in receiving sponsorships from EDB. Regarding the composition and operation of the Committee, as well as EDB's vetting and approval of applications for sponsorships, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the appointment procedures and terms of office of the members of the Committee as well as its current membership list; whether the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has participated in the appointment of the members of the Committee and its operation; if it has, of the reasons for that;

(2) of the organisations from which EDB received, in each of the past five years, applications for sponsorships for organising mainland exchange programmes which aimed at promoting national education, and set out by applicant organisation the amounts of sponsorships applied for, the application results and the amounts of sponsorships approved;

(3) whether the authorities can make public (i) the procedures adopted by the Committee for processing an application for including a certain programme in the "Passing on the Torch" Series, and the specific criteria and guidelines adopted by the Committee for making such decisions, (ii) all documents related to the processing of applications by the Committee (including the scoring criteria), and (iii) the specific procedures as well as the assessment and selection criteria adopted by EDB for vetting and approving applications for sponsorships, and the relevant documents; if they can, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(4) given that the key leaders of some of the organisations applying to the Committee for inclusion of their programmes in the "Passing on the Torch" Series and to EDB for sponsorships are also members of the Committee, whether such members have participated in the Committee's vetting and approval of the applications submitted by those organisations; and

(5) as it has been reported that some organisations have commissioned the private companies owned by their key members to organise the national education promotional activities sponsored by EDB, whether EDB will take follow up actions (including conducting investigations); if EDB will, of the details and progress of the follow-up actions; if not, the reasons for that?



     Regarding the media report cited by the Member about Mainland exchange programmes run by organisations sponsored by the Education Bureau (EDB), we issued a "Clear the Air" article on January 21, 2015 to clarify that the commissioning of Mainland exchange programmes is processed in accordance with the Government's established procurement procedures. Any organisations meeting the eligibility criteria set out in the tender documents may submit a tender. The Committee for the "Passing on the Torch" National Education Activity Series (the Committee) was neither involved in the procurement of the service nor given any priority for EDB's funding support. The EDB is responsible for the itinerary, tendering and implementation of Mainland exchange programmes.

     My reply to the Member's question is as follows:

(1) To take forward the initiative announced in the 2008 Policy Address, the EDB has created a national education activity platform known as "Passing on the Torch" (PoT) to provide Hong Kong teachers and students with more learning and exchange opportunities in the Mainland by co-ordinating the work of various voluntary groups to promote national education in a more strategic and systematic approach. In 2009, the EDB invited Dr Annie Wu, Dr Joseph Lee, Mr Andrew Yao, Dr Bunny Chan, Mr Yeung Yiu-chung, Mr Adrian Cheng and Mr George Lung, who support and promote the above objective actively, together with a number of representatives from the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and from the EDB, to form the Committee to coordinate the operation of PoT. The above seven persons serve as Chairpersons while the Under Secretary for Education as the convenor of the Committee, with secretariat support provided by the EDB. The Committee promotes the development of PoT by garnering strength through partnership between the Government and community organisations. The PoT inauguration ceremony was held in 2009 to officially announce the launch of PoT and the establishment of the Committee. PoT disseminates Mainland exchange programmes organised by the EDB and other non-governmental organisations for the reference of schools, teachers, parents, students and members of the public. The Committee, responsible for coordinating the activities of PoT, is not subject to any specific regulations in respect of its tenure.

(2) Unlike EDB-commissioned Mainland exchange programmes, the "Passing on the Torch" Subvention Scheme (the Subvention Scheme) is a programme under the EDB. It is administered by the EDB without any involvement of the Committee in the vetting of funding applications submitted under the Subvention Scheme. With an annual provision of HK$2 million, the Subvention Scheme provides sponsorship for non-profit-making organisations to arrange for Mainland exchange programmes in support of the objective of "promoting national education in schools" for the purposes of enhancing national knowledge and fostering a sense of national identity among primary and secondary students of Hong Kong. Sponsored organisations should prepare the itinerary and implementation details of the exchange programmes on their own according to the proposals submitted. In general, the total amount of sponsorship for all projects submitted by the same organisation will not exceed 50 per cent of the costs of all activities. The maximum amount of sponsorship for each approved project under the Subvention Scheme is HK$0.5 million, while the total amount of sponsorship for all projects submitted by the same organisation should not exceed HK$1 million.

     In the past five financial years, 25 organisations submitted 59 applications under the Subvention Scheme of the EDB. Details of sponsorships are set out in Annex.

(3) All applications are examined by an assessment panel, which comprises members drawn from the school sector, experts, academics and the EDB's representative, according to the established assessment criteria in a fair and just manner before recommendations are made to the EDB. The assessment criteria include quality of the proposed project, whether the objective of promoting national education in schools can be achieved and cost-effectiveness. When inviting applications for the Subvention Scheme, the EDB will make available relevant details and documents, which include the application form, assessment criteria and points to note on the use of funds, on the PoT website.

(4) Members of the Committee do not sit on the assessment panel of the Scheme. The assessment panel has put in place a mechanism for declaration of interests to avoid conflict of interests.

(5) Applicant organisations of the Subvention Scheme are required to set out clearly the details of each proposed activity and the amount of sponsorship sought in the application form for consideration by the assessment panel in accordance with the criteria stated in (3) above. The approved projects should be organised strictly in accordance with the details specified in the application proposal. Should changes are made on their own, the EDB has the right to withdraw the sponsorship. Successful applicants are required to submit an activity report and statements of income and expenditure of the sponsored projects to the EDB upon completion of the projects. Reimbursement is made according to the approved amount of sponsorship for the estimated budget to meet the actual expenses of the activities.

Ends/Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Issued at HKT 14:46


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