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Response to Director of Audit's Report on the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data

     In response to media enquiries regarding the Director of Audit's Report No 53 on the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD), which was tabled in the Legislative Council today (November 25), a spokesman for the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau (CMAB) said the bureau welcomed the Report.

     "We respect the autonomy of the PCPD, which is an independent statutory body, in its internal management and operations. At the same time, as the Government provides subvention to the PCPD for its operations, we attach great importance to the observations and recommendations in the report regarding the administration and operation of the PCPD. We will work closely with the PCPD to ensure appropriate follow-up actions on the recommendations," the spokesman said.

     The Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, wrote to the PCPD earlier today to emphasise that it was very important for the PCPD to consider carefully the observations and recommendations in the report, and take appropriate follow-up actions. This should include review of the internal guidelines, procedures and control mechanisms, in order to ensure good governance and efficient and economical use of resources.

     "As for the three recommendations in the report for the CMAB, we accept the recommendations and will take appropriate follow-up actions to implement them."

     One of the three recommendations is that the CMAB should review the appropriateness of the manner in which the PCPD purchased its office car in 2003-04. As the PCPD purchased the office car without the appropriate approval for virement of funding from its recurrent subvention account to its capital subvention account, we, having consulted the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau, consider that the act constituted a breach of the requirement of the Memorandum of Administrative Arrangements (MAA) signed in November 1997. The CMAB has written to the PCPD to underline the importance of complying with the requirements of the MAA at all times and to remind the PCPD to exercise prudence and strive for economy in considering its expenditure including the procurement of equipment and services.

     Another recommendation is that the CMAB should consider whether to require the PCPD to return to the Government the earmarked fund for computer installation to implement the Data User Registration Scheme (DURS) or to allow the PCPD to keep the fund and take appropriate measures to ensure that it is not used for other purpose without the CMAB's prior consent. Since the DURS will have implications for different sectors of the community, the PCPD will have to consider the implementation arrangements carefully in consultation with the parties involved. The CMAB will follow up on the recommendation and work out arrangements for the PCPD to return the earmarked fund to the Government.

     As for the recommendation concerning the reporting of the PCPD's performance in the CMAB's Controlling Officer's Report (COR), the bureau is working with the PCPD to develop appropriate outcome and productivity indicators, including indicators on the PCPD's promotional activities and the number of codes of practice or guidelines approved/issued by the PCPD. They will be included in the CMAB's COR next year.

Ends/Wednesday, November 25, 2009