Legco to question Timothy Tong

Public accounts committee to ask former ICAC head to explain 'inconsistencies' between his testimony and independent panel findings

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 September, 2013, 4:35am

The former head of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, Timothy Tong Hin-ming, will face fresh questioning by lawmakers next week about his spending on gifts and official trips during his five-year tenure.

The Legislative Council public accounts committee has planned hearings on Wednesday and Thursday after finding inconsistencies found between Tong's earlier testimony and a report by an independent panel.

"This committee has to be very fair, open, and at the same time search for the facts," committee chairman Abraham Razack said after a closed-door meeting yesterday that decided on the hearings.

"We are not picking on Tong. We are giving all parties a chance to explain the discrepancies."

The graft-buster's commissioner Simon Peh Yun-lu and community relations director Julie Mu Fee-man are also invited.

The independent review committee set up by the ICAC unveiled a report last week that found the agency had breached spending rules on at least 42 occasions between 2007 and last year. It detailed Tong's lavish spending on official entertainment, gifts and official visits. But it also criticised the agency's community relations department for failing to comply with the rules.

When the report was compared to evidence given by Tong in the Legco open hearing in May, there appeared to be "a number of discrepancies in a number of areas", Razack said.

In May, Tong was asked at the hearing whether he had gone sightseeing during some official visits. Tong said he did not know the routes of his visits in advance and it was "difficult to reject" the route arranged by the hosts. He insisted all visits had been approved by the chief executive.

But the panel's report found that the community relations department had added sightseeing trips to Lijiang and Leshan on two official visits to the mainland in 2009 and 2010. The trips were not included in the approved itineraries.

Tong had also claimed he did not know that the cost of alcohol could not be calculated separately from the expenditure for entertainment. The report found the ICAC had introduced a form to improve the practice in 2008 when Tong was in office.

Accounts committee vice-chairman Paul Tse Wai-chun, said that if anyone made false statements during the hearings, Legco could refer the case to the Department of Justice.

Leong Che-hung, a member of the four-person independent panel, said all the facts must be made clear and he respected Legco's decision to summon Tong.

Democratic Party chief executive Lam Cheuk-ting, a former ICAC investigator, said the Legco committee should also pursue the report's findings on the agency's purchase of alcohol that did not comply with the rules.

Razack said his committee had completed the first draft of its report but had yet to reach a conclusion. The final report was expected in November.

A Legco select committee established to investigate the case may also invite Tong to give evidence later this year.