ICAC chief Simon Peh in U-turn on liaison office meal
Anti-graft agency gets drawn into cash storm as more unreported hospitality by present and former commissioners is revealed
Simpson Cheung and Tony Cheung
The Independent Commission Against Corruption was plunged further into controversy yesterday as it was revealed there were more unreported receptions and expenditures by its current and former commissioners.
It was earlier revealed that former commissioner Timothy Tong Hin-ming hosted 20 receptions with the central government's liaison office during his five-year tenure.
Commissioner Simon Peh Yun-lu, when asked on Thursday whether he had had "any meal" with liaison office officials, said: "For the nine to 10 months I have been in office, I have not had meals with [officials of] the liaison office, nor have I sent any gifts to them."
But yesterday, the commission admitted the liaison office had treated Peh and five directors to a dinner in November. A liaison office official also attended a reception hosted by the commission in February, it said.
The statement said Peh's earlier denial meant only that he did not use public money to treat liaison office officials.
Peh told the South China Morning Post last night that he was not deliberately concealing anything. "When you asked me [at that time], I had forgotten [about the] meal. I immediately clarified after I looked at my records and found there was such a meal," he said.
The ICAC also admitted yesterday that cookies and mooncakes bought by Tong - which were worth more than HK$48,000 - had not been revealed previously and spending on them was not included in the HK$220,000 Tong spent on gifts during his term between 2007 and 2012 that the commission had told the Legislative Council about earlier.
The commission apologised for the confusion, saying the calculation was done in haste. It denied it was trying to conceal its expenses and said it would review all its expenditures.
Former deputy commissioner Tony Kwok Man-wai urged Tong to come clean on his overspending as it damaged ICAC's reputation and credibility. "There has not been a single commissioner who acted like Tong," he said.
League of Social Democrats vice-chairman Avery Ng Man-yuen, Civic Party lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching and NeoDemocrats lawmaker Gary Fan Kwok-wai all lodged complaints with the corruption watchdog yesterday over Tong's alleged misconduct in public office and breach of bribery laws.
The Legislative Council's Public Accounts Committee will hold a hearing next month that will focus both on general policies and the two lavish dinners Tong approved for mainland officials that were revealed in the audit report last week.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying stressed that his government remained uncorrupted.