Former ICAC Commissioner Timothy Tong Hin-ming told a Legco panel on Friday that the reason purchases of alcoholic drinks increased during his five-year term was because he had to receive an increased number of visitors.
Tong was attending a Legislative Council Public Accounts Committee hearing to answer questions over his alleged use of public money on lavish receptions for mainland officials. Legislators had to invoke special powers to summon Tong to testify.
He told the panel that as commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, which he headed between 2007 and 2012, he had approved the increased amount of alcohol purchased to host an increasing number of guests from the mainland.
“We had to consider the status and customs of the visitors we received,” Tong said.
The hearing focused on findings by the Audit Commission that the costs of two dinners Tong hosted for visitors in 2011 exceeded the permitted limit. At one dinner, the expenses for wine and desserts were calculated separately so the dinner did not exceed the permitted limit.
Tong said he thought at the time this calculation would be in line with regulations. “I would not have done this if I knew that the Audit Commission did not recognise this way of handling it,” he said.
He was testifying under protection, which ensures his testimony cannot not be used against him in criminal proceedings. The ICAC has launched its own investigation into Tong’s spending habits while commissioner.
After Friday’s panel meeting, Tong said he believed the hearing would not have a negative impact on the image of the city's anti-corruption agency.
In February, Tong was appointed as a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the nation’s top political advisory body, after he retired from the ICAC in June.