ICAC reviews drug-testing after Post report

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 September, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 September, 2001, 12:00am

The ICAC has launched a review of drug-testing by the Correctional Services Department, after the Sunday Morning Post uncovered the doctoring of samples.

An Independent Commission Against Corruption spokeswoman refused to give details of the review - by the anti-graft body's Corruption Prevention Department - only saying it was intended to improve the system's reliability.

Last month the Post revealed that urine samples from recovering drug addicts who had been released from jail were being logged as drug-free when they were not.

In some cases, sources said, CSD sample-takers swapped the former inmates' samples with their own urine in order to give a negative test.

An insider revealed that the practice was carried out in order to make it look like the rehabilitation system was working.

The ICAC spokeswoman said the review was the second of its kind, another had been carried out in 1999. The previous review recommended the present random-checking system.

She would not be drawn on how far the present review had got or if the ICAC believed there was a need for a third-party monitoring of the sampling process.

But she said: 'We are currently conducting a study to review the urine-taking procedures. It would not be appropriate for us to comment on specific aspects of an ongoing study, but we will ensure adequate safeguards are built into the CSD's system.'

Under present laws, the sampling process is carried out by CSD after-care officers, although senior officers conduct random checks on samples.

Addicts who pass the urine test are free from being recalled to CSD treatment centres in Hei Ling Chau or Chi Ma Wan.

Hong Kong claims the abstinence rate among former addicts is 70 per cent in the 12 months after the addicts are released. Other countries' rates average between 20 and 50 per cent.

The CSD, which manages Hong Kong's jails, maintains there is a lack of evidence pointing to a prevalence of any malpractice, but it could not rule out 'isolated cases'.

However, addicts, social workers and various well-placed sources all confirmed to the Post that malpractice existed. Some addicts said they had been given 'chances'.

Lawmakers James To Kun-sun and Emily Lau Wai-hing have demanded answers from the Security Bureau and called for improvements to the system.