Ex-minister in probe had several checks
The misconduct alleged against the former development chief is all the more surprising because of the many integrity checks he underwent during his 30 years in the civil service.
But civil service unions said yesterday that Mak Chai-kwong's receipt of government perks would not have been the focus of the strict, multi-layer scrutiny system.
Mak resigned on Thursday after just 12 days in office and is facing an investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption over his use of a rental subsidy perk. Mak has been subjected to at least five integrity checks in the civil service, and a sixth when he became a minister.
So Ping-chi, honorary chairman of the Senior Government Officers' Association, said: 'The assessment for civil servants above directorate grade is very strict, covering even the situation of spouses of the civil servants' siblings in a form called GF200.' Yet the integrity-check system did not focus on possible corruption inside the government, said So, who has been a civil servant for more than 20 years.
Mak joined the government in 1976 as an assistant engineer; he became permanent secretary for environment, transport and works in 2006. In 1994, he was in the directorate grade as a chief engineer.
'Financially, directorate-grade holders have to report their investment and property portfolios annually, and report any stock transaction of over HK$200,000,' said So. 'Deputy directors are interviewed by officers sent by the police for a whole-day check, based on information obtained in a prior background search.'
A personal profile is created for every civil servant when they first join the government, containing any criminal records, positions held and conduct records. Although Mak had gone through all the checks, So said, 'they focused on the civil servant's external business links rather than the handling of government benefits'. Philip Kwok Chi-tak, chairman of the Senior Government Officers' Association, said Mak's rent deal was overlooked because the main integrity checks did not look into such subsidies. There was a separate monitoring system for the private tenancy allowance scheme, he said.
'Each application for the tenancy allowance system was scrutinised. Applicants had to submit a copy of the tenancy contract to the government. [Officials] subsequently checked whether the rent amount was on par with the market level, and if the subsidy amount was on par with the job rank of the applicant,' said Kwok, an engineer who joined the government in 1987.
Lawmaker and former security minister Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee has proposed a revamp of the integrity-checking system.