Canteen lunches for ICAC chief after excesses of predecessor
Simpson Cheung and Joshua But
The city's top graft-buster said he would in future only host meals in the ICAC's canteen at around HK$200 a head after it emerged yesterday that his predecessor spent more than HK$77,000 on two banquets for visiting mainland officials.
Lawmakers proposed that the legislature investigate the former commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, Timothy Tong Hin-ming, over his costly presents and receptions.
The two dinners were held in November and December 2010 in the five-star Grand Hyatt Hotel in Wan Chai. The bills totalled HK$77,100.
The first one was to entertain 36 officials, including Cao Jianming, prosecutor-general of the Supreme People's Procuratorate. Tong approved the consumption of five bottles of moutai liquor, each costing HK$1,450.
In the second dinner, 28 officials were treated, including Wei Hong, who was then the deputy governor of Sichuan. Average spending per head was HK$1,150 and HK$1,275, well above the limit of HK$450.
Last week the audit report revealed two other cases of overspending on lavish meals by Tong during his five-year tenure.
Commissioner Simon Peh Yun-lu expressed concern that staff morale would be affected by the revelations and said he would set out guidelines on gifts, meals and official visits.
"We already have close ties with our [mainland] counterparts. We will discuss with them first, suggesting that we do not exchange gifts," he said.
If such exchanges were unavoidable, Peh said, he would give out the commission's annual report and promotional video. Other possible gifts included shields and crystal models bearing the ICAC logo and not exceeding HK$400 in value.
Papers released by Legco on Tuesday also showed that Tong spent more than HK$154,000 on gifts to officials in mainland government departments and their related agencies in Hong Kong.
He also spent HK$757,921 on duty visits, with 19 of 34 trips during his tenure being to the mainland, ICAC data shows.
Lawmaker Emily Lau Wai-hing urged Legco's security panel to invite Tong to explain the matter, saying he had "tarnished the image of ICAC and damaged officers' morale".
She said that a source had told her that Tong had hosted "countless" meals with liaison office officials.
Lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan said she would use Legco's powers and privileges ordinance to summon Tong.
The audit commission said it would keep in view the matter and consider follow-up reviews if necessary.
Peh said he would co-operate with any inquiry.