Hong Kong police biggest government buyer of wine

The force bought 1,622 bottles over three years, while immigration department comes in second

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 June, 2013, 7:52am

The police force topped all government bureaus and disciplined services - including the graft-buster - when it comes to buying wine for social events.

The force bought 1,622 bottles over the three financial years up to March 31 - more than double the Chief Executive Office's 681 bottles.

The force said the wines were consumed at events where officers liaised with different sectors of society. As of June 1, the force had 120 bottles in stock.

The government disclosed in a press release yesterday figures for wine procurement and bottles in stock - along with how much they cost - for the Office, the chief secretary, financial secretary, secretary of justice and 13 government bureaus.

Similar figures for the disciplined forces were separately disclosed last night, but without the expenditures.

Official spending on wine and entertainment came under media attention after it was revealed Timothy Tong Hin-ming, the former chief of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, bought about 1,000 bottles of wine and spirits during his five-year team ending last year.

The Immigration Department bought 1,497 bottles. A government source said the department needed more wine because it was holding more meetings with local and overseas law enforcement bodies. The average cost of a bottle was HK$50.

Even under its current chief Simon Peh Yun-lu, the ICAC continues to be a heavy buyer of wine. He has bought about 137 bottles for an undisclosed amount since taking up the post in July 2012.

According to the disclosure, the Chief Executive's Office spent HK$342,037 for the 681 bottles, including 240 bottles bought by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying for HK$80,500.

The office of the Chief Secretary for Administration bought 367 bottles and paid HK$72,660, with Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor acquiring 120 of the bottles for HK$15,016.

The wines for Leung were cheaper than those bought by his predecessor Donald Tsang Yam-kuen. A bottle cost an average of HK$627 in the 2011/12 financial year under Tsang's regime, and dropped to HK$335 under Leung's watch. As of June 1, his office had 587 bottles.

Some bureaus bought no wines during the stated period, including the Civil Service Bureau, Development Bureau, Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau, and Home Affairs Bureau.

Lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah questioned why the chief executive needed so many bottles of wine. "Buying 200 bottles a year would mean about two bottles every three days. Do they throw banquets every week? Why would they drink that much wine?" Tong asked.

He said it was unreasonable for the office to continue buying wine while stock remained. "Wines are not about to expire. They get better over the years," he said.