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Proposed arrangement for handling election returns with minor errors or omissions

     The Government today (June 2) forwarded a proposed arrangement for handling election returns (ERs) with minor errors or omissions to the Bills Committee of the Legislative Council (LegCo), which is examining the Electoral Legislation (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2011.

     A Government spokesman said, "Under our proposal, if the cumulative amount of errors or omissions in a candidate's declaration of election expenses and donations does not exceed the proposed de minimis limit of the respective election and the ER concerned does not violate certain conditions, the relevant candidate will be given the opportunity to rectify the relevant ER within a specified period without the need to apply for a relief order from the Court of First Instance (CFI)."

     The proposed de minimis limit for each candidate or list of candidates at an election is as follows:

     (a) Chief Executive election; District Council (second) functional constituency (DC (second) FC) of the LegCo election: $5,000;

     (b) LegCo geographical constituencies election: $3,000;

     (c) Election for LegCo functional constituencies other than DC (second) FC; Election Committee subsectors election; DC election: $500; and

     (d) Heung Yee Kuk election; election for the Chairman or Vice-Chairman or a member of the Executive Committee of a Rural Committee; Village Representatives election: $200.

     "Based on data from past elections, the proposed de minimis arrangement would be able to cover a majority of the cases involving potential breaches relating to election expenses.

     "If the candidate does not rectify the errors or omissions within the specified period, the ER concerned will be subject to the normal investigation and arrangements and prosecution under the Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Ordinance (ECICO) as appropriate.

     "In cases where the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has received complaints or intelligence indicating that a candidate may have made a statement that he knows or ought to know is materially false or misleading which amounts to corrupt conduct, the ICAC will conduct investigation notwithstanding the proposed de minimis arrangement," the spokesman said.

     The proposed special arrangement will not be applicable if, after including the cumulative amount of errors and omissions, the total election expenses exceed the prescribed election expenses limit of that particular election, which constitutes illegal conduct under section 24 of the ECICO. Moreover, it will not relieve the candidate or list of candidates from other offence provisions in the ECICO if the ER concerned has contravened any such provisions.

     "The proposed arrangement addresses concerns raised by some LegCo Members that the investigation of the minor errors or omissions in relation to ERs under the ECICO distracts the ICAC from dealing with more important and serious offences in other areas. Candidates who are involved have to face considerable uncertainty as a result of the ICAC's investigation in such cases and some of them have to incur a fairly large legal costs to seek a relief order from the CFI. The proposed arrangement will allow such minor errors or omissions to be handled expeditiously.

     "The Government will listen to the views of the LegCo Members and consider appropriate legislative amendment," the spokesman said.

Ends/Thursday, June 2, 2011