Lai See
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 May, 2013, 4:31am

Time to drop 'Independent' from ICAC's title

BIO

Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.
 

Chief Executive C.Y. Leung has made another poor political decision in setting up a committee to look at regulations surrounding government entertainment.

Oh yes, and the committee is also going to look at claims that the former ICAC commissioner Timothy Tong Hin-ming spent hundreds of thousands of public dollars entertaining mainland officials. This is a classic fudge. So instead of an investigation where Tong's overspending is the focus, we get a more general inquiry into "government entertainment" in which Tong's activities are a subplot.

This is a very serious matter which hits at the very core of the values which are supposed to be central to Hong Kong public life and institutions. The "I" in ICAC, less we forget, stands for "independent". The Independent Commission Against Corruption for decades has been the bedrock which has kept Hong Kong's institutions, and particularly its civil service, relatively free from corruption. So if the government wants to maintain the perception that it values a truly independent ICAC, then it should have set up a body that was empowered to get to the bottom of what Tong was up to, rather than one that is going to come up with recommendations about government entertainment.

Setting aside potential issues of corruption and misconduct in office, what was Tong doing hobnobbing with the Liaison Office officials? It has been suggested that one reason for this work-around investigation is to avoid embarrassing the Liaison Office. It is an open secret that after 1997 the ICAC was one organisation it was particularly interested in securing significant influence over. Indeed, both Leung's action, in the form of the investigation he has set up, and Tong's activities reinforce the widespread perception that the Liaison Office is the de facto government in Hong Kong. It makes a mockery of the "one country, two systems" set-up that is supposed to be operating here. Maybe "independent" should be dropped from the ICAC's title, just so that we are no longer fooled.

 

Sir Ka-shing goes to Oxford

Li Ka-shing was rubbing shoulders on the podium with British Prime Minister David Cameron at Oxford University yesterday to mark the launch of the Li Ka-shing Centre for Health Information and Discovery. Sir Ka-shing Li, as the Hutchison Whampoa press release refers to him, has donated £20 million, or rather the Li Ka Shing Foundation has, for the centre, which will "put the UK at the forefront of revolutionising healthcare through big data".

The statement goes on to say that the potential of "big data" to revolutionise health research and offer patients "better, safer and more personalised treatment will be a major focus of the centre, which will be unique worldwide in providing a dedicated centre of excellence in the emerging field of big data in medicine." That said, it is unlikely that Hutchison's dockworkers, currently on strike for a pay increase, will see it this way.

 

Diamond: 'Money not my goal'

Bob Diamond wasn't in banking for the money, he has told The New York Times Magazine: "I never set money as a goal. It was a result." He must have been one of the few. He goes on to tell the NYT's Andrew Ross Sorkin: "I think we have lived well, but it hasn't been about accumulation or anything like that."

That said, Sorkin points out that Diamond's current residence is a US$37 million penthouse on the 40th floor of 15 Central Park West, which he bought under the pseudonym Novgorod, to make it seem that he was a Russian oligarch. It looks like the reinvention of Bob Diamond is going to take a while longer.

 

Buffett calls for more women

On the face of it Warren Buffett appears to be in favour of having more women on corporate boards. The billionaire investor exhorts fellow males to get on board with the idea in Fortune magazine. "The closer that America comes to fully employing the talents of all its citizens, the greater its output of goods and services will be." But then again like a lot of men that speak out in favour of this, it seems to be mostly lip service.

Buffett's flagship, Berkshire Hathaway, was described in a report from Calvert Investments earlier this year as one of the least diverse companies in the S&P 100. Voting this weekend will determine if it elects its third woman to its 13-strong board.

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