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EY, I ser ved on government boards but just those concerned with
finance and higher education,” he says. “Now I am getting to know
the Hong Kong government and more aspects of its operation. I inter-
act with all the bureaus such as education and healthcare.”
Sun says it is gratifying that the commission can contribute to
improving life in so many areas. “ We make recommendations and
they are very well received and the administration follows up by
setting up committees to review and further study topics,” he says.
“ They can potentially come up with some reforms.
“Planning is an issue, as is balancing conflicting priorities. We
have conser vation and heritage issues that we recently studied,” he
says by way of an example. “ We should recognize the protection of
private property rights. How do we strike a balance between the need
to preser ve buildings of value and the right to tear down property and
build high rises?”
Sun believes that the long history of the commission has meant that
most major flaws in the public auditing system have been ironed
out. “It’s a fairly well-established system,” he says. “I don’t need to
see significant changes.” The government books are presented ac-
cording to a cash accounting system, rather than an accrual system.
“It is rudimentary but more understandable to the general public,”
It is also better understood by Hong Kong’s media, which, he says,
does an impressive job in interpreting what are, in many cases, com-
plex audit reports. However, reviews of high-profile agencies like the
ICAC means that others released at the same time get ignored.
“Some of our best reports don’t get much coverage,” Sun laments,
“like one on the government logistics department.” The rules state
that any tender with a value of more than HK$3 million must have a
transparent and open bidding process. That takes time. Sometimes it
takes 250 days for a tender process.
“Seven or eight months is a long time,” he adds. “ We can make it
more efficient and flatten the hierarchy required,” he says, paraphras-
ing the recommendations of the Audit Commission in its report. “It’s
not as sexy so it didn’t get much public attention.” But such reports, he
says, sum up a key role of the commission. “It ’s about enhancing effi-
ciency and cutting red tape.”
Another recent recommendation – that the Information Ser vices
Department advise government bureaus on using social media to
engage the public – contrasts with the Audit Commission’s own rela-
tionship with Hong Kong’s people. “We don’t really engage with the
public, although we receive inquiries and complaints like the Office
of the Ombudsman,” Sun says.
“If people provide enough information and evidence, we no-
tify the bureau concerned and monitor their response,” Sun says
of those who lodge complaints with the commission. “If we are not
happy with the bureau’s response, we can initiate an inquiry. It has
happened but we very seldom initiate an independent study.”
Sun says he intends to continue the commission’s good work,
which involves policy monitoring, not policy making. “ We don’t touch
policies – we assess how they are being administered.
“ We are trying to create some kind of discussion,” he says of the
topics the commission addresses. “Hong Kong needs a way forward –
and that’s not something an auditor can always find the answer to.”
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