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Use Your Vote

Do you want to have a say, in the recent review of the Companies Ordinance which suggests, amongst other controversial issues, the waiving of audits for small companies? Do you feel that you are ready to accept some statutory responsibilities as auditors in the reporting of suspected fraud perpetrated by others? Do you want to take part in the discussions which will decide how the Mandatory Provident Funds will be managed? How about getting involved in more general issues such as Corporate Governance of listed companies, accountability of public bodies and regulation of the rapidly developing financial markets ? If you feel concerned by such issues, then you must also recognize the importance of maintaining a strong representation of the accounting profession at Legco.

We all know of course that the HKSA Council is doing a superb job of reflecting the collective views of our profession . In the present context, these fine efforts must, more than ever, continue to be supported from within the constitutional framework. To be truly effective, our lobbying must benefit from first-hand political insight as well as input and receive the widest possible coverage. This is why it is still so important for our profession to have a representative at Legco.

The functional constituency seat of professional accountants should never be taken for granted. There are many professions and functional bodies vying for a seat in Legco and, believe me, they go to great lengths in their lobbying efforts. According to the Basic Law, the whole political structure will be reviewed by year 2007. Our right to retain a functional constituency seat will, to a great extent, depend on how much we show that we value this privilege. In this regard, action speaks louder than words. Our members' level of participation in the voting process should therefore reflect our determination to maintain strong representation.

The disappointing fact is that, in the past, professional accountants have always had very low voter registration rates. We were denied a seat in 1985 because the Government thought that accountants did not care much about public affairs. In 1988, only 698 members turned out to vote. No vote was taken in 1991 as the then incumbent member, Peter Wong, claimed the seat without contest. In 1995, 3,722 accountants registered as voters and 2,134 registered to vote for the first time in this constituency. Eventually, 2,190 voted in the 1995 election, giving a respectable voter turnover rate of 58.84%. Despite this significant increase of 1995 numbers, we should keep in mind and perhaps be concerned that even in 1995, our overall registration rate was still the lowest among all the existing twenty functional constituency!

Set against our total membership of 13,209 (as of 21 October 1997), the present 3,722 registered voters represent a modest 28% registration rate. It is clear that as an organised profession, we have a long way to go and much work to do if we at least want to reach the 1995 average voter registration rate of the twenty functional constituencies. The 1995 average rate was 54.6%.

Out of our 13,209 members, 4,036 have become members since 1 June 1995 (the time when the voters register closed in 1995). Of the 9,171 full members who joined before 1 June 1995, 441 were considered ineligible voters probably due to the fact that they had not lived in Hong Kong for seven years. Given a chance and some encouragement, I hope this force of young accountants will enthusiastically respond to the call and register as voters.

There is also a new catch in the rules of the upcoming 1998 election. Some of our existing 3,722 registered voters may indeed be dropped from the voters register because of a change in legislation. To be eligible, our expatriate friends and colleagues must ensure that they hold a Hong Kong identity card with three stars (right of abode in Hong Kong). It no longer suffices to simply prove that you have lived in Hong Kong for seven years, so please check and make sure that you qualify.

Those who choose to register with other functional constituencies rather than accountancy should also check carefully and make sure that their chosen constituency has not been abolished or that the make up of the constituency has not changed. If you have any doubt at all on your entitlement, please check with the election hotline 2891 1001 or call me anytime at 2827 4336.

So please register. Claim your right to have a say in your professional practice environment. Show that we accountants do care.

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