In response to media enquiries regarding the report of the Legislative Council (LegCo) Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), which was tabled in the LegCo today (July 8), a spokesman for the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau (CMAB) said the bureau would study and follow up on the PAC's recommendations with the EOC.
The spokesman said: "The EOC is an independent statutory body. Its work of safeguarding equal opportunities is supported with public funds. Its resources must be utilised suitably.
"We note that the PAC has expressed grave dismay regarding the inadequacies of the EOC in respect of its governance and administration, and the EOC Chairperson has publicly apologised in this regard earlier today. He also made it clear that he would take up the responsibility to continue to lead the EOC to carry out various important tasks, including follow-up actions on the recommendations of the PAC.
"We note that, as pointed out in the PAC's report, the key findings of the Director of Audit's Report are about the inadequacies in governance and administration of the EOC, which do not concern the EOC's performance in promoting equal opportunities and implementing the anti-discrimination ordinances.
"Following the publication of the Director of Audit's report on the EOC and the PAC hearings held in early May 2009, the CMAB has been working with the EOC on a number of improvement measures and follow-up actions.
"The term of the incumbent EOC Chairperson will expire in January 2010. We will commence the open recruitment exercise soon to appoint a new Chairperson.
"On the other hand, the new term of EOC members commenced in May. In appointing the members, we have taken into account various factors, including the attendance rates of members of the last term, and the members' abilities, expertise, experience and commitment to public service.
"Regarding the issue of governance structure, after consulting the LegCo Panel on Constitutional Affairs and the EOC, the Administration has suggested to the EOC to retain the full-time executive Chairperson position, and to delineate part of the Chairperson's functions to a new post of Chief Operations Officer. This new position will oversee administrative and operational matters and strengthen the governance of the EOC. This would enable the EOC to have the full-time involvement of the Chairperson at the current senior rank to deal with the major tasks ahead. The Government will provide additional resources to the EOC for the arrangement.
"The CMAB has proposed to the EOC that an audit and management consultant be commissioned in order to assist the EOC in its implementation of the recommendations of the Director of Audit and the PAC, to conduct compliance and management audits, and to regularise the relevant measures to strengthen its governance.
"Regarding the Memorandum for Administrative Arrangement (MAA) between the CMAB and EOC, we have proposed further amendments to the EOC to reflect the changing circumstances. We look forward to early conclusion of the amendments after the Administration and Finance Committee of the EOC has considered the proposals.
"As regards the recommendation concerning the performance reporting of the EOC, the CMAB and EOC are working together to develop new targets and indicators, with a view to reflecting them in the controlling officers' report next year.
"On the issue of life insurance of the EOC Chairperson, we have invited the EOC Board to carefully consider the matter and to propose to the Administration appropriate follow-up actions. After the proposal has been received, the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs will report to the Chief Executive and deal with the matter as soon as possible.
"In accordance with the established procedure, we will submit the Government Minute to LegCo in October to report on the progress of follow up actions on the PAC report.
"The Government attaches great importance to the recommendations in the reports of the Director of Audit and the PAC. On the basis of respecting the EOC's autonomy, we will support the EOC in improving its governance and administration."
Ends/Wednesday, July 8, 2009