ICAC tightens spending rules in wake of expenses scandal
New guidelines come as anti-graft body faces renewed pressure over ex-chief's expenses
The ICAC has imposed stricter checks on official entertainment and gift expenses following allegations of extravagance and collusion surrounding Timothy Tong Hin-ming, former chief of the graft-busting body.
The new guidelines, to be tabled for discussion at a Legislative Council security panel meeting next Thursday, say duty visits should only be approved if "absolutely necessary" and "prominently conducive", and that gifts or souvenirs should not be offered "as far as practicable".
The Independent Commission Against Corruption paper says: "All official entertainments hosted by [heads of departments] must be approved by the commissioner.
"To ensure checks and balances, [heads of operations] will endorse official entertainments hosted by the commissioner, whereas the assistant director (administration) will check compliance of those attended by both the commissioner and [heads of operations]."
The current budget limit on official entertainment for an ICAC officer are HK$350 for lunch and HK$450 for dinner, unless otherwise approved by the commissioner.
The new guidelines also recommend that officers invite only guests directly connected with the official business at hand, that the number of attending officers should not exceed the number of guests, and that entertainment bills not be split or charged to different cost centres.
Democrat James To Kun-sun, deputy chairman of the security panel, welcomed the tightened guidelines.
"I believe it is a step in the right direction," he said. "The new guidelines are addressing precisely what concerns the public the most."
Legco's Public Accounts Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow, with Tong and the current ICAC commissioner, Simon Peh Yun-lu, expected to testify.
Three other probes and reviews are to be launched in the wake of the allegations against Tong, including a corruption investigation to be led by Peh.
Tong, 63, is accused of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of public money on receptions and gifts for mainland officials and visits across the border.
His troubles deepened yesterday when the daily Ming Pao reported that the ICAC had failed to give a full account of Tong's expenses to lawmakers.
The Ming Pao report, quoting unnamed sources, alleged that Tong had spent over HK$1 million, but that the ICAC had reported only about HK$270,000 of his expenditure to the legislature.
The ICAC would not comment on the paper's report.