Quitting is minister's only option
When a boss says she has complete confidence in the integrity of a naughty underling, you can be sure it's time for the latter to fall on his own sword.
And expressing her trust was exactly what Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor did over the weekend when asked about the case of new Secretary for Development Mak Chai-kwong, who has been accused of abusing the government housing allowance with the help of a fellow civil servant back in the 1980s.
Lam and Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying have completely bungled their handling of the fiasco. They stalled and then defended Mak while each day, new revelations surfaced about his dishonest, if not illegal actions. Mak will have to go. But chances are they will wait until the damage has been done to the new government's credibility before they send him packing.
Mak's scheme, it turns out, was rather elaborate, so let me see if I get it straight. Mak and his buddy Tsang King-man, the current assistant director of the Highways Department, bought two flats one above the other in North Point's City Garden.
They then 'cross-leased' the flats to each other so they could claim the rental allowance. This was apparently a commonly exploited loophole among civil servants at the time, but its legality is debatable.
Mak and Tsang then gave each other power of attorney to dispose of the flats they were living in any way they saw fit. What flat owner would give such power to a tenant - unless the flats they were living in were actually their own except in legal title?
All this may well be legal. But it's laughable for Mak to insist the whole scheme was not premeditated and that his conscience was clear. It would seem a good deal of planning and execution was involved.
The latest expose comes on the heels of illegal structures found in Leung's palatial home on The Peak. Both incidents cast serious doubt on the integrity and honesty of the new heads of government. But while it looks like we are stuck with Leung, Mak is disposable. He should do the honourable thing, assuming he has any honour left.