Customs staff code bans use of fakes

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 December, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 December, 1999, 12:00am

Customs officers have been banned from using fake CDs and other pirated goods under new anti-corruption guidelines.

The new Code on Conduct and Discipline was released yesterday to more than 5,000 Customs staff after a six-month consultation with the Civil Service Bureau and the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

It came days after the ICAC announced it had recommended eight Customs officers face disciplinary action for corruption-related offences.

Of these, five have been disciplined for accepting expensive entertainment, one for excessive borrowing ending in bankruptcy and one for posing as an ICAC officer. The other is under investigation.

In addition, eight other officers have been punished for non-corruption offences after internal investigations this year. Five were disciplined for losing their officers' identity cards, two for neglecting their duty and one for disobeying an order.

Deputy Commissioner of Customs and Excise Raymond Li Wai-man said the force was clean, but the new guidelines improved on previous ones because they spelled out in detail what was acceptable.

'What is particularly new is the restriction on use of counterfeit goods such as fake CDs and computer software,' he said.

'Staff are in favour of such guidelines because they spell out in black and white what you can do and what you can't.' The code includes guidelines on acceptance of advantages and entertainment, abuse of power, respect for intellectual property, how to handle potential conflicts of interest and when to report to superiors about such cases.

Gifts and loans from friends and other people cannot exceed $2,000 and $1,000 in value respectively under the new code.

There are also standard forms for applying to accept gifts and to dispose of them, as well as forms for notifying a superior about a potential or existing conflict of interest.

The Association of Customs and Excise Service Officers could not be reached for comment last night.

But in previous statements, it has said it is in favour of clear-cut guidelines so people would not be arbitrarily disciplined.

Customs came eighth on the ICAC list in terms of the number of staff recommended for corruption-related punishment, the lowest of the departments named on the list.