• Sun
  • Sep 21, 2014
  • Updated: 4:13am
NewsHong Kong
EXPENSES SCANDAL

I made mistakes, admits ex-graft buster Timothy Tong

Ex-head of anti-corruption agency accused of 'lie after lie' in three-hour grilling by lawmakers as he admits there was maladministration

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 September, 2013, 8:41am

For the first time since the overspending scandal at the Independent Commission Against Corruption erupted, its former chief Timothy Tong Hin-ming admitted yesterday that he had made mistakes. But he insisted he was an honest man.

Tong's admission came after he was dragged back before the Legislative Council's Public Accounts Committee for a grilling that lasted more than three hours - with lawmakers intent on clarifying inconsistencies between Tong's earlier testimony to them and an independent report on ICAC's spending on entertainment, gifts and official visits.

At the end of it, he was told lawmakers still weren't satisfied and would be calling him back again in a matter of weeks.

Emerging from the session, Tong, who is subject to criminal inquiries over the scandal, said he would give a full account to the public after the case was closed.

"I made mistakes but they were not related to my integrity," he added. "An innocent man always remains so. If a line is drawn today to show the seriousness of my mistakes, I will admit it without hesitation.

"I am sorry for the damage I've brought to the ICAC."

Tong had just conceded to lawmakers that there had been "maladministration" concerning an official trip in which two senior officers who accompanied him to Brazil had upgraded their seats to business class without approval, costing HK$186,000.

But he said he had reservations about two issues raised in the independent report. It had criticised him for "excessive non-official activities" on two official visits to the mainland in 2009 and 2010, to which sightseeing trips were added.

In a 2009 trip to Yunnan , Tong admitted a visit to Lijiang had not been included in the application to the chief executive. However, he insisted the itinerary was prepared by mainland authorities and reckoned the chief executive's approval of the Yunnan trip meant it could cover "the whole province".

Lawmakers also asked about Tong's role in an accounting practice by the community relations department which meant the cost of alcohol was calculated separately from other entertainment expenses.

In earlier hearings, Tong had claimed he did not know anything about it. The independent report found a form had been introduced in 2008 - when Tong was in office - which, in effect, prevented the practice, but that the department stopped using the form after about six months.

"I did not focus on administrative issues," Tong said. "I was also not aware when and why [the form was] no longer in use."

Lawmaker Gary Chan Hak-kan, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, noted the purchase of maotai, a strong Chinese spirit, had soared after the department stopped using the form to claim expenses. He said Tong's evidence was "contradictory".

Democratic Party chief executive Lam Cheuk-ting, a former ICAC investigator, accused Tong of telling "lie after lie" and said it was impossible that he did not know about the rules on entertainment expenses.

Last month's independent report that triggered yesterday's hearing found rules had been breached on 42 occasions during Tong's five-year tenure, from 2007 to 2012.

Tong is now subject to criminal inquiries over at least two of the breaches.

Today, lawmakers will question incumbent commissioner Simon Peh Yun-lu and the ICAC's community relations director, Julie Mu Fee-man.

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bluefirestorm
The big elephant in the room is why Tong and senior ICAC officers have very frequent meals claimed under entertainment expense. The report showed an average of 3 lunches/dinners per week for a party of around 8-10 people (for lunches) and an average of 12-15 (for dinners) (if one goes by the average meal cost and spending cap per person). Why were some meals not hosted by Tong claimed under the HK$36,000 that is part of the ICAC director's remuneration?
But I suppose the LegCo members won't make this an issue as the LegCo members themselves have non-accountable entertainment reimbursement of up to HK$169,690 annually.
From paragraph 35 of
****www.legco.gov.hk/general/english/sec/corg_ser/admin_guide_201101.pdf
Up to $169,690 a year (i.e. from October to September next) can be reimbursed on a non-accountable basis except for the portion used to meet staff expenses as explained in paragraph 41 below.
dascaldasf
In an earlier article of the same subject matter, I wrote that I would give Timothy Tong the opportunity to speak before commenting. He said: "... If a line is drawn today to show the seriousness of my mistakes, I will ..." Surely, a man of his position in the government should know what he has to do, can do, can't do and won't do. This 'line' as he stated is drawn not on paper nor can it be so [as he well knows]. I would say he has to be punished in some way for his 'mistakes'.
chuchu59
If this guy were honest I would like to see a truly dishonest guy. Even when he is accused of contradictions he brushes them away with ridiculous remarks. Its obvious he used his lofty position in the ICAC to pressurise his subordinates into non-compliance with established accounting procedures and now he says he knows nothing about it. A liar of the highest order and to think he was the head of the much-respected ICAC for a few years. A wrong choice Donald.
daily
This pathetic-looking old man was purely abusing his position and influence during his time at ICAC to "enjoy" life...........the amount of maotai that this guy spent on public funds is beyond belief and he continue's to claim to be an "honest" man..............charge this guy and take away his pension.
chuchu59
You cannot take away his pension as he has already received it but you can stop the monthly pension payments to him. If he is convicted this will happen.
caractacus
Let him be charged, convicted and made an example of, but he should not be the sacrificial lamb as a diversion to cover up the real corruption at the top of our society.
The property developers and their fellow travellers have to get their comeuppance.
 
 
 
 
 

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