The Education Bureau has denied trying to bypass graft-busters in investigating internal complaints of corruption.
It was responding to a lawmaker's query on an e-mail in which a senior education official told the bureau's civil servants to refer any corruption accusations to her so that they could be handled in a centralised manner.
Legislator James To Kun-sun said he had seen the e-mail, which was sent by principal assistant secretary Alice Lau on October 29, asking the civil servants, who included government school teachers, to report suspected cases in schools to her.
He said the memorandum created an impression that the bureau was trying to prevent public officers from independently monitoring suspected corruption and reporting such cases to the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
To said "it was hard to imagine" if civil servants were deprived of the ability to monitor crimes and if government departments handled corruption complaints internally.
Last night, the bureau said it did not intend to limit the channels of crime reporting to internal referrals.
It acknowledged that Lau had sent the e-mail, but said: "It does not mean that our colleagues cannot make relevant complaints directly to the ICAC."
A bureau spokeswoman added that the arrangement was in line with recent ICAC advice - which had also been given to other policy bureaus - that sought to handle complaints more efficiently. Other than creating a point of contact through the principal assistant secretary, the spokeswoman said, the bureau had no intention to prevent civil servants from reporting crimes on their own.
An ICAC spokeswoman said last night that setting up an established anti-corruption channel within departments for case referrals was meant only to increase efficiency.