LC: CS presents Government Minute in response to Report of Public Accounts Committee No. 68

     Following is the speech (translated from Chinese) by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr  Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in presenting the Government Minute in response to the Report of the Public Accounts Committee No. 68 in the Legislative Council today (October 18):
     Laid on the table today is the Government Minute (GM) responding to Report No. 68 of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
     First of all, I welcome the submission of Report No. 68 by the Chairman of PAC to the Legislative Council on July 12, which embodies a conclusion of and recommendations on the chapter of “Monitoring of charitable fund-raising activities” in the Audit Report.  I am also grateful for the time and effort that the Chairman and Members of PAC devoted to investigating this subject.  We accept PAC’s various recommendations and have set out in detail the specific responses of the relevant bureaux and departments (B/Ds) in the GM.  Today, I would like to briefly address the two major concerns of PAC.
     The Law Reform Commission (LRC) has published in 2013 its Report on Charities in which a series of recommendations were made to enhance the transparency and accountability of charities, including those on the monitoring of charitable fund-raising activities. 
     The recommendations have far-reaching implications on the operation and development of charities in Hong Kong and the issues involved are very complicated.  For example, LRC pointed out in its Report that no consensus in the community has been reached on the establishment of a single independent regulatory authority on charities and some people may even have concerns about the proposal.  LRC therefore suggested that an independent charity commission should not be set up at this stage, but the definition of charitable purpose be provided and a registration system for charities be established where the register should be co-ordinated and maintained by a single Government department.
     However, the implementation of LRC’s recommendation for a regulatory framework in the absence of a single regulatory authority is a highly complicated issue.  The Government needs to take into consideration the views and feedback of the public and various stakeholders, including charitable organisations of different types. 
     As the recommendations made by LRC are related to the duties of a number of B/Ds, the Home Affairs Bureau (HAB) is responsible for co-ordinating inputs from relevant B/Ds to produce a response to LRC’s recommendations as soon as possible for the Government’s overall consideration.
     Meanwhile, the Government notes the concerns in the community over the accountability of charities, in particular that of charitable fund-raising activities.  HAB is co-ordinating with relevant departments to explore feasible administrative measures by making reference to the recommendations in the LRC Report, the Audit Report and the PAC Report, with a view to enhancing the transparency of charitable fund-raising activities and safeguarding the rights and interests of donors.  Among others, administrative measures under consideration include disclosing financial information on fund-raising activities granted with a licence or a permit to protect the public’s right to know, examining the introduction of a one-stop service to facilitate applications from charities for the organisation of fund-raising activities and enhancing the “1823” hotline and the charitable fund-raising activities webpage on the “GovHK” portal to facilitate the public to access the relevant information or lodge complaints. 
     Furthermore, we are reviewing the current “Reference Guide on Best Practices for Charitable Fund-raising Activities” (Reference Guide) issued by the Social Welfare Department, and we will step up promotion efforts and encourage charities to follow such practices.  The public may refer to the Reference Guide for assessing the performance of charities in fund-raising activities for a better understanding of the rights and interests of donors.  As for the recommendations in the Audit Report and in the PAC Report on the monitoring of fund-raising activities by individual departments, relevant departments have implemented some of them and are proactively following up the rest.  The specific progress has been detailed in the GM.
     President, I would like to thank the Chairman and all Members of PAC again for their efforts and guidance.  Relevant departments will strictly follow their responses in the GM to make improvements so as to ensure value for money in the use of public funds and achieve the original policy objectives.
     Thank you, President.

Ends/Wednesday, October 18, 2017
Issued at HKT 12:21