HONG KONG – The Education Bureau said it would start vetting refundable fees charged by private schools after a government watchdog said the current practice of the bureau is no longer compatible with education regulations.
According to a report released on Tuesday, the Ombudsman said apart from school fees, many private schools raise capital by collecting other charges, such as debentures, school construction fees and nomination right fees, which could amount between a few thousand and a few million dollars.
The Education Bureau conceded that the collection of any other charge by private schools in relation to the school education received by students should be subject to the bureau’s approval, the Ombudsman said
But the bureau had been, over the years, “adopting a liberal approach in its interpretation of relevant provisions based on the legal advice received a long time ago, which considered the collection of other refundable charges by private schools a private financial arrangement between the schools and parents, and hence not requiring approval," according to the report.
"During the course of this direct investigation, we pointed out to EDB that its long-established practice is incompatible with regulation 61(1) of the Education Regulations," according to the report.
The Ombudsman said after seeking legal advice, the bureau conceded that the collection of any other charge by private schools in relation to the school education received by students should be subject to the bureau’s approval.
Lands department slammed
In another report released on the same day, the Ombudsman lashed out at the Lands Department for its lax handling of unauthorized use of public areas inside shopping malls.
The Ombudsman found that tables or vendor stalls had been put up in public passage areas inside shopping malls despite the department’s warnings.
Also, the department had failed to collect waiver fees to the tune of HK$20 million from more than 60 shopping malls as financial compensation for the unauthorized act during the past five years, according to the report.
In one case, the department took 10 months to issue a warning letter to a property owner who had violated rules of using public areas.
The Ombudsman called for more timely actions by the department in the future.
With contribution from Joy Dong
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