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CCAC questioned about Alleged intentions: Misinterpretation of law or cover-up?
A civic group has accused the Commission Against Corruption (CCAC) of misinterpreting the laws governing financial disclosure by allowing civil groups to receive allowances from the government. They have asked the graft watchdog to correct its “misunderstanding” of the laws and to make the Chief Executive (CE) shoulder his share of legal responsibilities by compelling the subsidized groups to reveal how much money they received from the authority, as well as publicizing how they utilized public resources.
The New Macau Association (ANM) held a press conference yesterday at its headquarters where it released CCAC’s response to the complaint filed last September in which ANM asked the graft-buster to fulfill its duty by stopping the CE’s inaction over the law (encoded 2/99/M). The legislation obliges him to set up a disclosure benchmark requiring all civil groups who receive a public subsidy above the threshold to make an annual disclosure of theiraccounts detailing their annual income as well as main expenditures on rent, human resources, major activities, etc.
But in its reply to ANM, CCAC said the 54/GM/97 dispatch has stricter disclosure requirements than the 2/99/M law, as the former demands government bodies to immediately gazette any subsidies they grant to any civil groups. The government has already implemented 2/99/M through its dispatch of 54/GM/97.
But ANM lawmaker Ng Kouk Cheong, who proposed the 2/99/M law back in 1999, pointed out during yesterday’s conference that CCAC made a serious mistake in the interpretation of 2/99/M, which the Legislative Assembly passed unanimously in 1999. All lawmakers had agreed the laws and regulations available at that time, including 54/GM/97, were not effective enough or were not viable in practice to make the government and the subsidized groups execute their fiduciary duty in a reasonable way.
“For example, governmental bodies gazette one subsidy at a time, so if you want to have an annual figure you would have to collect and add up all the data, which is a colossal project prone to mistakes,” the legislator said. “For the subsidized groups, some of them are simply not operating immediately after registration and establishment. They may not get any public subsidy, nor do they have any activities that incur expenditure. It’s unreasonable to have these groups spend hundreds of patacas every year to publish their accounts in a local newspaper, as many of them don’t even have the funds necessary to do that, and that is exactly why we (the Legislative Assembly) made the new 2/99/M law in 1999 to make the disclosure mechanism more reasonable and effective. And now the problem is that the CE isn’t following the law by setting a precise subsidy above which civil groups receiving grants must conduct annual financial disclosure.”
In addition to the “misinterpretation” of the laws, ANM president Jason Chao pointed out that CCAC did not understand the difference between a law and a dispatch, and that’s why the watchdog thought the dispatch could take the place of the law on the issue.
“Our good willed interpretation of CCAC’s mistake is that the watchdog was too busy, and Macau laws are too complicated and too voluminous,” said Ng, “so we’ve urged the body to correct the mistake and follow-up upon the complaint to stop the CE’s inaction over the law, otherwise it may give rise to possible ‘malicious’ interpretations of CCAC’s intention. An example of this is if the graft-buster was viewed as helping the CE and other government departments cover up their mistakes and laziness.”
“We’ve given them enough face this time,” said Chao, “If they don’t follow up on the issue, we’ll escalate our action.”
In response to MDT’s enquiries for possible responses to the allegations, CCAC said they had no comment to make over the issue.
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