Democratic Party district councillor Ted Hui Chi-fung has apologised after he used his accountable operating expenses granted by the council to pay gratuities to staff. Hui gave around HK$120,000 as bonuses to his assistants, but has now decided to donate the same amount to the Community Care Fund.
Hui was criticised after three assistants, of different experience and salaries, received a bonus of the same amount. Another received a bonus equal to 19.5 months of salary.
Some members of his party had urged him to apologise, saying that they will not support Hui’s Legislative Council run in September if he did not do so. Hui denied that his apology and charity donation was made in order to prevent his run from being terminated.
Hui admitted that he “could have handled the matter better” at a press conference on Wednesday, saying that he agreed with the central committee which suggested he apologise and make a donation to help the needy.
He will explain the issue to the central committee on Thursday for a meeting on follow-up actions.
Hui proactively disclosed the spending to the media in May, explaining that he used part of his expenses last year to give a full-time assistant and two part-time assistants HK$39,000 each as bonuses. The expenses of HK$400,000 per year are payable for spending which has been made, and can be rolled over to the following year if unused.
The full-time assistant had worked for him for two years, receiving a monthly salary of HK$11,000; one part time assistant had worked for four years for HK$2,500 per month; and another one worked for five months for HK$2,000 per month.
Hui had said that, as his constituency is in Central, it was difficult for him to pay high salaries with the ever-increasing rent for office space, so the bonuses were his effort to reward lowly-paid assistants. Such arrangements are not illegal.
Hui added that he will consider higher salaries for his staff and avoid giving bonuses as a compensating measure.
“I think it is a more careful and appropriate measure from the public’s point of view,” he said.
Pro-Beijing camp lawmakers Ip Kwok-him and Wong Kwok-hing questioned Hui’s actions.
Ip said it was not a problem to offer the expenses to full-time assistants as a reward, but it may not be appropriate to give expenses as bonuses to the part-time assistants who were not part of the regular staff structure.
Wong said that, unless the relevant staff contracts included arrangements for the bonuses, the bonuses given may have violated the requirements of usage of expenses.