A lawmaker has warned that another Sally Aw scandal might erupt if the Secretary for Justice becomes a political appointee while retaining the power to prosecute. But officials argued that taking away the secretary's prosecution job would amount to an 'abdication of duties' and might breach the Basic Law. Under the proposed accountability reform, the secretary would become a de facto cabinet minister of the future chief executive. The Bar Association has voiced concern that the secretary's independence might be compromised and has suggested shifting his or her prosecution powers to another law officer. In 1998, Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung Oi-sie sparked outrage when she decided not to prosecute Sally Aw Sian, former publishing tycoon and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference delegate, even though she had been named by the ICAC in a circulation fraud case involving the now defunct Hong Kong Standard. At the Legco constitutional affairs panel meeting yesterday, Emily Lau Wai-hing, of The Frontier, questioned the independence of the secretary if he or she was only accountable to the chief executive. 'There is a huge shadow hanging over Hong Kong. People are frightened that there would be more Sally Aw scandals,' she said. But Solicitor-General Bob Allcock said Basic Law article 63 stipulated that the Department of Justice would continue to control criminal prosecution free from interference. 'A complete transfer of her powers and responsibilities in respect of prosecution matters would amount to an abdication of her duties as head of department and is likely to be inconsistent with the Basic Law,' he said. Delegating such power to a civil servant who was not under the new political accountability system would also go against the spirit of moving towards greater accountability, he said. Meanwhile, Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Michael Suen Ming-yeung said the Government would try to ensure support staff for the political appointees would be redeployed from the civil service. He was responding to Liberal Party chairman James Tien Pei-chun's question on whether funding for the new postings was inconsistent with Legco's eight-party coalition's opposition to increasing the number of directorate postings. Mr Suen also said there would be restrictions on the activities of the chief executive and his policy secretaries after they had left office. He said political appointees would be given a remuneration package without post-service benefits. But retirement benefits for the chief executive would be considered.