Lawmakers blast ICAC's 'creative accounting'

Legco's examination of ex-chief's expenses hindered by foggy reports, lawmakers say

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 June, 2013, 6:03am

Lawmakers have expressed concerns over what they called arbitrary and creative accounting by the Independent Commission Against Corruption as they examine expenses for meals and duty visits incurred by its former chief, Timothy Tong Hin-ming.

In April, the Audit Report revealed that Tong had hosted two lavish dinners in December 2011 based around an international anti-corruption video competition. But Legco's public accounts committee found that the first dinner, on December 6, was not included in the HK$1.73 million expenses claimed for the whole function.

The dinner was calculated as part of the general expenses of the ICAC. There was also a boat trip on the second date that cost HK$2,000.

Kenneth Leung, the lawmaker representing the accountancy sector, voiced concerns over such "arbitrary" accounts. "We cannot get the overall impression of how much was actually spent on this event."

Forty-four guests of the video event later spent HK$12,807 to visit Guangdong's prosecution unit after the competition. But this expense was folded into the initial expenditure.

Committee chairman Abraham Razack urged Tong to explain such "creative accounting". Tong has said the ICAC's administrative branch had a system for filing expense claims.

Tong said he was having a weekend day off when the delegation visited Guangzhou, but he made a one-hour appearance as a matter of courtesy. Leung pointed out that this visit was not included in his 33 duty visits previously listed to Legco.

The committee also heard that Tong had hosted receptions in places such as the Jockey Club, the Football Club, the Country Club and Tai O. He also spent more than HK$35,000 at the Grand Hyatt hotel when Procurator General Cao Jianming visited from Beijing.

The expenses of the Centre of Anti-Corruption Studies, set up in 2009, came under the administrative branch of the ICAC between 2009 and 2011. But they were calculated as expenses of the Community Relations Department in the following 20 months. Last September, the centre's expenses came under the branch again.

Tong admitted that the hiring of a mainland scholar as a consultant for the study centre had not been done through the usual public recruitment exercise, but insisted that the professor's knowledge was an inspiration during his one-year term.

Tong also hit out at what he said were inaccurate media reports, saying they had distorted many facts.

He would seek legal advice about taking further action, he said.