Former anti-corruption chief Timothy Tong Hin-ming yesterday told a Legislative Council select committee hearing he was aware of "imperfections and inadequacies" during his tenure, but said his overspending "was not a sin".
Tong was bombarded with questions about his spending on official entertainment as he faced lawmakers for the sixth time. But the former commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption said he had nothing else to say.
"I fully recognise the importance of Legco … and the ICAC," a distressed Tong said. "But about the same matter, what more can I say?"
It was unclear whether he would attend the next meeting, scheduled for March 1, of the committee, which was set up to investigate him in addition to an inquiry by Legco's Public Accounts Committee.
Responding to the latter's damning report, published in November, which reprimanded Tong for "deplorable" overspending and "ignorance or total disregard of rules", he came close to tears.
"I worked hard [as ICAC commissioner]. There were imperfections and inadequacies. The saga has brought me a great measure of regret over the past few months," said Tong, now a delegate to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. "But this is not a sin … it has got nothing to do with greed or corruption."
Despite the Legco committee's 90-page report, which detailed Tong's spending, and another, independent committee report, lawmakers still challenged Tong about whether his spending of public money was intended to nurture his political ambitions.
Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok Wing-hang asked: "During your visits did you meet mainland officials who are CPPCC delegates to eat and drink with them?"
Tong replied: "The answer is yes. But it has nothing to do with the CPPCC appointment."
The former commissioner revealed he consumed an average of 12 bottles of red wine and two bottles of strong spirits per month during his tenure, but emphasised this "had no effects" on his handling of confidential files.
He reiterated that he upheld rules for the receipt of gifts, but admitted having "no recollection" as to whether he had filed records of all presents he had received during special occasions, such as his birthday.
Tong has been accused of overspending on gifts, travel and entertaining mainland officials.