Translation of the Cable TV report on shrunken food assistance to refugees, aired on 9 March 2015.
There are 7,500 refugees and torture claimants in Hong Kong who receive government assistance through the International Social Service (ISS-HK). However, the food rations they collect every month are ‘shrunken’. We investigated how much the ‘shrinkage’ is and where the missing money goes.
These 2 bags are the 10-days food collection of Hassan. Hassan came from Bangladesh to Hong Kong ten years ago and he receives government assistance as a torture claimant. Every month he goes to one of ISS [appointed grocery shops] three times to collect his food allowance.
Currently the Social Welfare Department outsources the refugee welfare service to International Social Service (ISS-HK) who arrange the food packages for 7,500 refugees, but the food collected is found to be ‘shrunken’. So, how much is the food worth? Our reports took the food to the market to check the value. The retail price of these [two bags of] food is $308.50, or $90 less than the price official price of $400.
Our reporter followed Hassan for a month. At the beginning of every month he goes to ISS office to fill in forms or his preferred food. But the forms do not indicate the price and the case worker does not inform the price of the food items he selected. He doesn’t know if it worth $1,200 [as indicated in official government communication].
Our reporter took his food packages to check at market prices. The total price of his monthly food was $993.30, or $200 less than his $1200 food allowance. Also the weight of the food Hassan collected is less than what he selected in the forms. Our reporter also found that other refugees receive ‘shrunken’ food collections. One refugees’ two bags collection was worth $320.90 only, and another refugee’s collection was worth $324.90. Both were about 20% less than [the food allowance].
International Social Service pointed out that if the $1,200 food subsidy is not used up, it will be returned to the government. However, Social Welfare Department reported that between the years 2010 and 2012 it disbursed 320 million HKD to ISS-HK. After the contract finished, ISS-HK returned 6.4 million HKD to the government as a reimbursement of administrative fees.
So, where is the remaining money? Our reporter asked ISS-HK again and they said the remaining money will be used for new collections [in subsequent months] until it is used up. And about the ‘shrinkage’ of the food, ISS-HK said refugees can weigh it themselves and if it is less than the standard amount they can ask to receive more.
Social Welfare Department said they will monitor the service quality of ISS-HK and how public money is used. Recently they also decided to change from in-kind food assistance to a coupon system in the new tender.