A series of reports released by the Director of Audit in October has drawn attention to various problems in the city, including hundreds of unused vacant school premises, food waste and underpaid yet delivered mail.
A report on the operation of the Hongkong Post revealed that the department had allowed mail which did not bear sufficient postage, and some which had no stamps at all, to be delivered to their addresses.
The auditor mailed 50 test letters with none or insufficient postage stamps during June and July this year and found 43 of them to have been successfully delivered. Hongkong Post was advised to review its current measures used to detect underpaid mail items, as the problem could affect the revenue of Hongkong Post, the report said. In its 20 years of operation, the Hongkong Post has recorded an operating loss in eight of those years.
In response, Postmaster General Jessie Ting told RTHK that the department will increase checks on mail items. She also said they would reduce the need for overtime work, after the report pointed out that many staff worked beyond their shifts on a regular basis. The Air Mail Centre staff and other offices had workers who racked up a significant amount of overtime.
When asked how the government would follow up on the report’s criticisms, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Gregory So said, “[Y]ou have to understand that the postal service is very much demand-driven, and so at times when the demand level has increased, that needs overtime work… At times of peak demand invariably there will be overtime that will be required of the staff of Hongkong Post.” However, he also said that many of the recommendations are already being followed up on.
Vacant school premises
The Director of Audit also revealed that there were 234 vacant school premises, 45 percent of which were not in use. Up to a third of these vacant school buildings which were no longer in operation have not been taken back by the government.
On average, these schools have not been in operation for 11 years, the report said. Schools which are not in operation and which lie on public land have to be returned to the government, and the Lands Department has the power to take back the land even if it the land is private.
Legislative Councillor Ip Kin-yuen called it a waste of land and suggested coming up with policies to deal with the vacant school premises. He also slammed the Education Bureau for its poor planning, after the report showed that 79 of the now-vacant schools have engaged in renovation works that costed HK$500 million in total.
Other reports conducted by the Director of Audit included one which revealed the extent of wasted food in the city.
“In terms of weight, the quantity of the food waste disposed of at landfills every day was equivalent to that of about 250 double-decker buses,” the report read.