Ex-ICAC chief silent amid questions over lavish hospitality spending

Former ICAC chief fails to respond to calls to explain his extravagant hospitality ways with mainland officials during his five-year term

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 April, 2013, 12:48pm

Former ICAC commissioner Timothy Tong Hin-ming continues to lie low despite calls to explain extravagant spending on hospitality for mainland officials during his five-year tenure.

Tong, who stepped down last year as the commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, has not responded since the scandal started making headlines last week.

Tong reportedly hosted more than 20 lavish meals for top office-holders from the central government's liaison office. The ICAC said they were still checking the records and would make their findings public.

He also had the public purse pay for expensive presents to mainland officials, including cookies and mooncakes worth more than HK$48,000. The sum was not included in the HK$220,000 the ICAC had earlier told the Legislative Council that Tong spent on gifts in his tenure from 2007 to last year.

Tong was last month appointed a Hong Kong delegate to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

Yesterday, Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing said it would support a push by pan-democrats for a formal inquiry to start by the end of the week - but said Tong should not be the only person facing Legco.

"Incumbent commissioner Simon Peh Yun-lu should also explain to lawmakers what has happened to the system and whether the loopholes can be fixed," she told an RTHK programme.

The pro-establishment camp has expressed reluctance to launch an inquiry, although lawmaker Ip Kwok-him, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, agreed that the row had tainted the image and credibility of the anti-graft watchdog.

"The scandal has prompted the public to question whether the graft-buster as a whole is behaving like this," he said. "The ICAC has a responsibility to resist the extravagant giving of gifts."

Ip, also chairman of Legco's security panel, said the panel would not look into a specific case but would discuss relevant policies and regulations at its next meeting.

Separately, the legislature's public accounts committee will hold a hearing next month with a focus on general policies and spending. The ICAC is also expected to launch its own inquiry.

Incumbent top officials say they have now simplified their hospitality style.

Raymond Tam Chi-yuen, secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs, said his bureau had begun drafting general principles advising officials to state in advance that there would be no exchange of gifts in duty trips.

Police chief Andy Tsang Wai-hung said that from the point of view of crime-fighting, it was necessary to extend hospitality to mainland officials in order to boost cross-border co-operation. "But the hospitality will definitely be kept within the government regulations."

[Correction: An earlier version said the ICAC had confirmed that Tong hosted more than 20 lavish meals for liaison officials. The ICAC are still verifying the reports of 20 banquets.]