Lawmakers yesterday examined the expenses of the former head of the graft-busting agency, Timothy Tong Hin-ming, whose duty visits amounted to triple of what his predecessors spent.
Tong, who made frequent visits to the mainland while serving as commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption from 2007 to 2012, was this year appointed a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
At a special meeting of the Finance Committee yesterday, legal-sector lawmaker Dennis Kwok Wing-hang, of the Civic Party, raised doubts over the necessity of Tong's trips.
Compared to Tong's predecessors, "his average expenditure [on duty visits] was triple … More than 10 of the courtesy calls were Beijing and Shanghai-bound. They were not for attending anti-corruption meetings.
"Some agencies were paid visits several times, like the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office and the Supreme People's Procuratorate. Why was it necessary to call on those units so many times?"
Kwok said the frequency was "barely understandable".
Nineteen of Tong's 34 visits were to the mainland, ICAC data presented to the committee showed.
Tong's visits totalled HK$757, 921 over his five-year tenure, or an average of about HK$151,600 a year - about triple his three predecessors'.
Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong's trips cost about HK$39,100 during his 14-month term ending in August 2003. Raymond Wong Hung-chiu's visits amounted to about HK$60,700 a year for his term until October 2006.
During her nine-month tenure to June 2007, Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun's trips cost HK$55,470.
Acting commissioner Ryan Wong Sai-chiu told lawmakers yesterday Tong's predecessors had also paid courtesy visits to mainland departments.
In general, the commissioner will discuss the need for duty visits with his three department heads with the final decision resting with the ICAC commissioner.
"During his five-year term, Commissioner Tong had more frequent contact with the mainland partly due to the establishment of the International Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities in 2006," he said. The group is Beijing-based.
ICAC figures also showed that Tong gave gifts worth HK$220,000 to officials and government departments across all the visits he made over his five-year tenure.