Single-tender contract by ICAC under scrutiny

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 March, 2011, 12:00am

An agency watchdog wants to know why the Independent Commission Against Corruption's operations department awarded a consultancy contract of nearly HK$1 million on a single tender.

An anonymous letter sent this week to several media organisations alleged the department hired a consultant to work out a 'succession plan' but 'did not conduct any open tender exercise in appointing a consultant'.

The contract was awarded to a retired American FBI official, Timothy Turner, whom the department's director of investigation on the private sector, Rebecca Li Bo-lan, 'got to know at a course in the US', the letter alleged.

Chan Kam-lam, a member of the Advisory Committee on Corruption, said yesterday that he would take up the issue at the next committee meeting. The committee's citizens panel monitors the ICAC's operations and staffing.

Daniel Li Ming-chak, the graft-buster's head of operations, said the accusations were complete nonsense and that all the procedures for hiring Turner's services conformed to government procurement guidelines. Turner's consultancy firm won the contract because his proposal met the agency's needs and Turner was a recognised law enforcement expert, Li said.

An ICAC spokeswoman said the agency invited about 10 consultancy firms to submit proposals in June last year, and four did so.

A panel formed by the heads of operations, community relations and corruption prevention found those submissions fell short of specifications and, last month, it decided to invite a single quotation. That was in line with the government's Stores and Procurement Regulations.

It is understood that the contract is for HK$800,000 to HK$900,000.

Under the regulations, a contract with a value of less than HK$1.43 million does not require an open tender. But departments should invite written quotations from no fewer than five contractors.

A succession issue is coming up at the ICAC, with operations chief Daniel Li and Ryan Wong Sai-chiu, director of investigation on the government sector, reaching retirement age in December and January, respectively. Rebecca Li, 48, is tipped as the new head of operations, but she has been in her present position for only 10 months.

A number of veteran investigators have left in the last two years, including two assistant directors. Ricky Chu Man-kin left in July for the Independent Police Complaints Council, while Jeremy Lo Kwok-chung, a 30-year ICAC veteran who focused on police corruption, left in September for 'personal reasons'.

Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung, another advisory panel member, said the ICAC still had many veteran officers. 'I am not worried about the succession of the operations department.'

Making the numbers

It is understood that the consultancy contract is for up to HK$900,000

A contract of under HK$1.43 million does not require an open tender, but quotations should be invited from at least this number of contractors: 5

ICAC operations department

Head of operations

Daniel Li Ming-chak (59) (reaches retirement age in December 2011)

Director of Investigation (government sector)

Ryan Wong Sai-chiu (59) (reaches retirement age in January 2012)

Director of investigation (private sector)

Rebecca Li Bo-lan (48) (reaches retirement age in 2022)