Former ICAC chief Timothy Tong Hin-ming broke his silence yesterday, saying he had sought legal advice and would co-operate with the committee set up to investigate claims that he spent excessive sums of public money to entertain mainland officials.
In a brief written statement - his first since the row broke last week - Tong agreed he owed the public an explanation. But he insisted: "At this stage, it is not appropriate [for me] to comment publicly on the incident."
Referring to the probe by the Legislative Council's Public Accounts Committee and one ordered on Thursday by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, Tong said: "I … will co-operate with the investigations as needed. I deeply believe that once the investigation is complete, the truth will come out."
Tong - a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference - bought mainland officials expensive gifts with public money, and reportedly overspent on dining with them, while head of the Independent Commission Against Corruption between 2007 and last year.
The Public Accounts Committee will hold a hearing this month that will focus on the ICAC's general policies and two lavish dinners Tong approved for visiting mainland officials.
Leung announced a four-member review committee, reporting directly to him, to look at the existing system and regulations governing entertainment expenses at the ICAC.
It is the first time such a panel has been set up to look at the anti-graft agency.
But some pan-democrats want Leung to launch an independent inquiry.
Leung said it was inappropriate to have another inquiry when the ICAC had already received complaints about the issue.
In an interview with ATV, executive councillor Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun, who is also a former ICAC commissioner, said she found many of the allegations against Tong "unbelievable".
She also wondered why the allegations had surfaced now, but not when Tong was still head of the ICAC.
Meanwhile, Legco's House Committee yesterday vetoed a plan by the pan-democrats to invoke special powers to look into the controversy.