ICAC's ex-boss spent big on mainland gifts

Former Commissioner Timothy Tong spent the bulk of the HK$220,000 he racked up in gift-giving to bureaucrats over the border

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 April, 2013, 4:05am

More than two-thirds of the HK$220,000 the former head of the city's graft-busting agency spent on gifts during his time in office was spent on items for mainland officials, including one HK$4,000 stone carving.

Former commissioner for the Independent Commission Against Corruption Timothy Tong Hin-ming has been accused of overspending on official visits, gifts and meals during his five-year tenure.

Tong spent more than HK$154,000 - out of HK$220,000 in total - on gifts to officials in mainland government departments and their related agencies in Hong Kong, papers released yesterday by the Legislative Council showed.

Tong also spent HK$757,921 on duty visits, with 19 of his 34 visits during his tenure being to the mainland, ICAC data shows.

Lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan, a member of Legco's security panel, recognised that while there was a culture of gift-giving in official mainland circles, Tong should have been more careful.

"It is problematic for any government official to compromise themselves by taking part in such a culture. As the ICAC commissioner, Tong should not have bent down to this culture," she said.

Tong was appointed to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the nation's top consultative body, in February, after stepping down as commissioner last year. Ho said she could not see any direct relationship between the CPPCC appointment and the gifts Tong made, but reiterated that he had failed to act appropriately.

"How can he promote anti-corruption on the mainland?" she said.

The largest expense was HK$10,325 for 35 pens, which Tong gave to different consuls general in Hong Kong in 2010 to 2011. He gave a camera worth HK$1,650 to a retiring official of the central government's liaison office.

Other items included models of the ICAC building made from crystal, scenery models of Hong Kong, also in crystal, ICAC pens, plaques and watches and digital photo frames preloaded with official photos.

Forty-eight gifts were priced at more than HK$500 - the value limit for gifts to civil servants in Hong Kong.

Tong gave a stone carving worth HK$4,140 to the Supreme People's Procuratorate during the 2007-08 financial year and a scarf worth HK$2,082 to the president of International Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities in 2010-11.

"Souvenirs should be decent but economical," Ho said.

Some of the guests Tong had entertained were not directly related to his job as an anti-corruption chief - officials with the mainland's propaganda agencies, for instance.

It was earlier revealed Tong made two expensive visits to Macau. In 2010, Tong made a four-day trip to the city with 35 officers that cost HK$215,151. A three-day trip with 21 officers cost HK$109,341. The paper revealed a two-day trip to Shenzhen with 25 officers cost taxpayers HK$110,718 in 2008. The most expensive trip was a nine-day one to Morocco with six other officers in 2011, which cost HK$593,463.

An audit report last week noted Tong had hosted two dinners that exceeded the expense cap during his tenure.

Ho said she would look into the possibility of reducing Tong's pension as a penalty and would raise it in Legco in the future.

An ICAC spokesman said it would set out regulations, including the spending ceiling, on gift-giving.