Nearly 100 Hong Kong government bodies refuse to reveal bills in SCMP spending poll

Independent Police Complaints Council's entertainment expenses are in stark contrast with graft-buster's under Timothy Tong

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 November, 2013, 10:06am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 November, 2013, 5:00am

The independent police watchdog was the only one of around 100 government institutions that disclosed the full details of its spending on entertainment, overseas visits and gifts in a South China Morning Post survey.

The figures from the Independent Police Complaints Council suggest a far more frugal approach than the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) under its former commissioner, Timothy Tong Hin-ming, whose lavish five-year term prompted the Post’s survey.

The complaints council, or IPCC, hosted just 18 lunches from the time it was established in 2009 and June 30 last year, the date Tong’s term ended. In comparison, the ICAC held 900 lunches and dinners under Tong.

The remaining government bureaus, departments and related organisations declined to answer the Post’s questions through media enquiries or requests under the Code on Access to Information.

“A request for information which could only be made available by unreasonable diversion of a department’s resources may be refused,” a government spokesman said, citing the code.

The survey came as the Legislative Council’s Public Accounts Committee prepared to report today the results of its investigation into Tong’s spending, which first came to light in an audit report.

Members of the committee have promised a strongly-worded document in which they will “condemn” Tong for his “deplorable” behaviour.

Some details of Timothy Tong's expenses during his five-year tenure.

Just two of the IPCC’s lunches went slightly over the HK$350-per-head spending limit imposed by the government on official lunches.

“We considered that a private room was required for the lunch on October 27, 2011,” a spokesman for the IPCC explained. “The budget of HK$350 cannot meet the minimum consumption of booking a private room in most of the restaurants in Wan Chai [where the complaints council has its offices].

“Prior approval for a higher budget [a maximum of HK$400 per head] from the secretary general was sought for this occasion.”

The final bill for another lunch, on June 11 last year, totalled HK$398 after one of the guests failed to show up and share the costs.

Thirty-seven per cent of the meals hosted by Tong and booked under official entertainment expenses exceeded the HK$350 limit.

While Tong was revealed to have spent more than HK$720,000 on gifts, ranging from silk scarves to beef brisket and fish balls (his most expensive gift was an ornament worth about HK$5,000), the IPCC paid for just six souvenirs in three years.

“All these souvenirs carried the names of the IPCC, and had values ranging from HK$326 to HK$1,000,” the IPCC spokesman said.