The head of the Independent Commission Against Corruption has sought to deflect criticism of the body after critics said a fall in the number of complaints over corruption indicated a lack on confidence in the agency.
Complaints to the graft-buster were down 35 per cent in the first 10 months from a year ago - 2,232 in the year to October. The critics said the fact former commissioner Timothy Tong Hin-ming is under criminal investigation for his lavish spending on receptions, gifts and duty visits while at the helm had affected confidence in the anti-graft body.
But ICAC commissioner Simon Peh Yun-lu said and the fall was because Hongkongers were "more aware" of corruption.
"To a certain extent, the relatively large drop in the [number of] graft complaints shows that the public is more aware of corruption issues. It's achieved by [implementing] graft prevention measures in all walks of life," he said.
He said the graft-buster was conducting its annual opinion poll, which he hoped would provide a better picture of the ICAC's reputation by January.
"I hope to get a clearer analysis by early next year," Peh said. "Some people say it is good [to have fewer complaints] … some academics have suggested otherwise. But I think these comments lack foundation, so it will be better to analyse it after the poll."
Peh insisted there were no signs that the city was becoming more corrupt.
He also said the ICAC had set up a new internal audit unit that reports directly to him. The unit is part of improvements recommended by an independent review committee that was set up to investigate Tong's spending.
Dismissing talk that the ICAC has been dragging its heels on the investigations into Tong and former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, Peh said both inquiries were progressing normally. "Every case varies in its level of complexity and the work we have to carry out," Peh said. "Some cases - for example, those involving gathering evidence from overseas - take longer."
The Legislative Council's Public Accounts Committee has also looked into Tong's spending.