Lawmakers take ICAC to task over office rents

Officer vows review after HK$275,000 for Lam Tin ground-floor site raises eyebrows

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 June, 2013, 5:15am

The graft-busting agency has promised to consider moving its regional offices out of high-priced ground-floor locations, after a government audit found that it spent HK$275,600 a month to rent an office in Lam Tin.

Julie Mu Fee-man, the Independent Commission Against Corruption's director of community relations, gave the pledge in response to lawmakers' questions about the report yesterday.

Members of the Legislative Council's public accounts committee noted that a HK$131,000-a-month office in Yue Long received just 93 inquiries last year, while one in Sheung Wan, costing HK$83,000, received 291.

While being the most expensive, the Lam Tin office also was the busiest, handling 617 inquiries and 82 reports.

"We rent a ground-floor spot in Sheung Wan because we want people to see it and file their reports … but we will look at what we should do with the office," Mu said. "We will evaluate whether it is cost-efficient to put [most of] our offices on ground floors."

The offices were necessary for community outreach events.

The Director of Audit's report, released in March, revealed that the ICAC spent HK$932,200 a month to rent seven of its nine regional offices, most on ground floors. Its two other offices are in government buildings.

Lawmakers also asked why former ICAC commissioner Timothy Tong Hin-ming and his delegation visited the Leshan Giant Buddha during an official visit to Sichuan in 2010. They also asked why, for many trips, he waited until just before he departure to ask for then chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's approval. Mu said local officials had invited Tong to visit the tourist attraction, while the current ICAC chief, Simon Peh Yun-lu, had said he would try to seek approval for trips earlier.

Public accounts committee chairman Abraham Razack said it would start drafting its reports as soon as possible but was unsure when they would be released because of a criminal investigation involving Tong.