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  • Aug 23, 2014
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CORRUPTION

Hong Kong urged to act on 'trend' of public-service corruption

Watchdog head says lack of pensions in sector may be driving problem

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 January, 2014, 12:57pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 January, 2014, 5:01pm

The head of a watchdog looking into the operations of the city's graft-buster has called for attention to be paid to a worrying trend of public servants abusing their power for personal advantage.

Michael Sze Cho-cheung, chairman of the ICAC operations review committee, warned that people who entered the public service after its pension system was changed in 2000 might be more inclined to act corruptly.

"The trend of public-office holders taking advantage of their positions and doing what they should not be doing deserves attention," he said yesterday.

"The gains they get now may seem trivial, but more civil servants will abuse their power for personal gain if we do not treat this seriously now."

Sze was particularly concerned that people who joined the service after June 1, 2000, might feel more inclined to abuse their power in office in order to build up retirement nest eggs.

That was the date the pension scheme for new recruits switched to the Civil Service Provident Fund - to which the government contributes 15 to 25 per cent of the wages of those with more than three years' service. In comparison, the Mandatory Provident Fund requires a 5 per cent contribution from employers.

The mode of corruption had evolved, Sze said, from accepting advantages to making personal gains involving a conflict of interest while discharging public duties, as signalled by high-profile allegations against senior officials in recent years.

Sze was addressing the media alongside representatives of three other committees that monitored the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

ICAC investigations of former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and the agency's own former commissioner, Timothy Tong Hin-ming, are ongoing.

Sze said he would not comment on individual cases.

He encouraged the public to report any suspicions of corruption to the graft-buster. "As long as you don't have malicious intent, and even if the evidence provided is wrong, the ICAC will not hold you accountable or demand you apologise."

In August, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said those who complained about two former Executive Council members, Barry Cheung Chun-yuen and Franklin Lam Fan-keung, should apologise after the ICAC dropped inquiries into their cases.

Sze advised that complaints be made in a low-profile manner that would not affect the subsequent collection of evidence. In the past, some political groups had notified the media as they were about to lodge complaints against public figures.

The city last year saw a 33 per cent drop in complaints, its largest annual decrease ever, said advisory committee on corruption chairman Chow Chung-kong. The ICAC received 2,653 reports, excluding electionrelated complaints, compared with 3,932 in 2012.

The damage caused to the agency's image by revelations of Tong's spending while in office could have contributed to the decrease, Chow said.

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13

This article is now closed to comments

BabyMan
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chuchu59
I doubt whether the civil servants will abuse power just to build up their retirement nests. I believe its greed that is at work. They want to command a lavish livestyle in their later years and milk as much as they can. Actually, with their paycheqques, I fail to see how they havent been able to savev enough for part of their retirement if they had been frugal during their careers.
Kubrick
It must be recognized that the ICAC is a political body and the word 'Independent' in the title is a piece of spin. The ICAC has always gone for corruption amongst the lower levels of the civil service, but it's political masters have prevented it from looking too close at the upper echelons. Yes, it helped clean up the Police Force (although if the truth be known, that process was underway before the ICAC came into being in 1974) and it made front-line civil servants relatively clean. The same can't be said for the upper levels of our society and the private sector, where corruption and collusion continue unabated. It is evident that ICAC is having a crisis of confidence at the moment. I hope for the sake of Hong Kong it repositions itself and deals with corruption in all sectors without fear or favour.
DinGao
Wherever you see the law being consistently broken, abused or ignored, the reasons can be varied.
Either the government officials concerned are implementing bad policy or they are under-manned, overworked, incompetent, lazy, fearful, badly led, brainwashed, colluding or corrupt.
The ICAC must clarify that it welcomes genuine civil service whistle blowers to put an end to the latter two evils.
John Adams
Corruption MUST include Collusion !
.
Thus ANY govt civil servant seeking a profitable post- retirement career in a related public sector post is immediately under suspicion .
.
Why do we tolerate such post- retirement leniency for top civil servants who all their lives earned premium salaries ?
PS: No Wonder that complaints to the ICAC have decreased recently .
The ICAC almost refuses to handle collusion complaints
sipsip1238
What the hell do you expect given that the majority of the people you hire aren't good enough/are too lazy to find work in the private sector where they most likely would've been made redundant a long time ago.
The thing is, these same people see their friends who work in the private sector get bonuses and feel that they deserve the same type of payment for their "hard work" too, which leads them to corruption.
How else would you explain the former ICAC chef wining and dining on public funds.
andreaswagner
Well, with the levels of corruption of HK's new colonial masters, a further 'mainlandisation' of HK should not come as a surprise.
Dao-Phooy
The current revolving door must be slammed shut! A much longer sanitation period must be introduced immediately to prevent these so called top civil servants from joining big business upon retirement. Fat pension couple with fat salary - it only results in influence peddling and corruption!
johnyuan
To Dao-Phooy,
.
You should be updated -- not corruption but collusion. Corruption is illegal and it is under the ICAC's jurisdiction. If we don’t see collusion as corruption, our ICAC shall exist in vain and Hong Kong is in a false security against corruption. Complains to ICAC dropped?
.
CY Leung, you should look into how to bring collusion behavior under control. The most harmful and vexing problem facing Hong Kong.  
Hum-Balang
Can someone remind me how does it work on the Tsang's case- that the last Director of Public Prosecution said before he retired he cleared his in-tray of that file, who is has the file? And who will decide whether that case will be followed through eventually? Is there any oversignt bodies, or does everyone just wait to see how long will be public forget it, which were:
1) Tsang YK, ex-CE, allegedly (must be proven by now) sought & allegedly (we know this was proven) took advantages during his term as the CE from his "friends"
2) Retiring as CE Tsang will have the fattest pension package
3) If ICAC will not deal with this, nor the DPP, will it be up to the Ombubdsman (an auditor) to say which department should have done something?
4) is it clear in its guidelines that ICAC can not investigate and then assist prosecution of the CE?
If nobody will say or do anything, does it mean the ICAC might as well be mothballed?

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