• Thu
  • Jul 10, 2014
  • Updated: 1:52pm
CommentInsight & Opinion

Extravagance has no place at the ICAC or any government department

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 September, 2013, 2:45am

The controversy surrounding former anti-corruption chief Timothy Tong Hing-ming had all the ingredients for a political storm from the outset - lavish wining and dining, luxurious gifts and questionable overseas trips - all paid by taxpayers without being questioned for years. A government-appointed review panel has just confirmed that the problems were more serious than previously reported. It is imperative for the government to pursue responsibilities and restore public confidence in the anti-graft agency.

Credit goes to the panellists for completing the most comprehensive probe within a tight schedule. It is shocking to learn that the man fighting bribery and corruption had little regard for rules laid down by the Independent Commission Against Corruption itself. Of the 206 meals hosted by Tong and charged under official entertainment, more than one-third exceeded the spending cap. He also appeared to be particularly generous in proffering gifts and treating guests to fine dining and hard liquor. The panel also challenged some of his duty visits, on which there was more sightseeing than official business. Altogether, there were breaches on 42 occasions during his five-year term. While overseas trips, entertainment and souvenir exchanges are part of official business, something is clearly amiss when the bills add up to millions of dollars.

Public officers, in particular law enforcers, are required to adhere to the highest standard of conduct. As the chief graft-buster, Tong has clearly failed the public. Two breaches are now the subject of criminal inquiry. The public expects nothing short of a fair and just outcome. Other officials who have breached rules should also be punished accordingly.

The damning report came amid growing concerns over the commission's anti-corruption efforts and impartiality in law enforcement. It would be worrying if public confidence is undermined as a result. Thankfully, the panel observed that many ICAC officers are indeed conscientious of their mission and have conducted themselves with discipline.

Our public service has a well-deserved reputation for being clean and rules-bound. Lavish banquets and luxurious gifts have no place in our officialdom. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has pledged that his administration will adhere to the principle of frugality when conducting official business. The saga is a good warning to the ICAC and government departments that the public will take all misspending seriously.


For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

HK people made a lot of fuss over Donald Tsang dining with the wealthy and traveling on somebody's yacht. That seem small potatoes indeed compared now with the Cathay Pacific travel junket and the extravagant dining, gifting, and travel by Tong. What a shame. I thought that the ICAC had kept our civil service squeaky clean, but obviously I am wrong. What can we expect now from the ICAC when its chief can behave in this abominable fashion. I hope that he is punished as befitting his crimes, to confirm that HK takes anti-corruption and govt responsibility to its citizens seriously.
This is a fine editorial except that it omits a call for harsh penalties for those who persistently breach the rules.
The timing of your editorial comes at the wrong or best time. It depends on who is reading it. Our Chief Executive would be a bit nervous since he has yet one more announced dinner to come. In fact, we don’t know if such dinners are entertainment or a working session with food and drinks. I am not sure these high profiled dinners what exact purposes do they serve. I only sense they may really a way for a reclusive chief to break ice with the people he governs. It is not a style but a short coming that must be corrected. A gagged high profile public meeting in the disguised of entertainment (dinner) is an insult to the even attendees and most of all to the public.
CE can always have a lunch working session where business within business hours can be conducted. If the topic must be confidential then keep the lunch appointment confidential too.
CE always can have a splendid evening of entertainment at the Governor House. Set it in style and have fun but no politics. See how US Presidents do it at the White House. Do that, let the tax money spent.
I question why any govt department needs an entertainment budget. Really, these senior "civil servants", to use the term loosely, make enough to buy their own meals and vacations, don't you think?


SCMP.com Account