A district court judge yesterday criticised the Health Department for lax oversight which led to more than HK$13.7 million of public money being lost in a false-accounting scam. Judge Stanley Chan made the criticism as he jailed two former government officers for false accounting and money laundering. Retired clerical officer Wan Man-fai, 55, was jailed for five years for using more than HK$13.7 million of public money to pay gambling debts. Judge Chan also jailed Kwong Man-sing, 61, a retired clerk with the Correctional Services Department, for 14 months on one count of money laundering for Wan, his former boss. Kwong had denied helping Wan launder HK$6.93 million through Kwong's bank account. Arrested a week before retiring from the Health Department, Wan pleaded guilty to 32 counts of false accounting. He had forged invoices for fees for research into the development of standards for Chinese medicine and for organising Chinese medicine training classes between May 2004 and June last year. He also made false claims in relation to paying Kwong, and Kwong's wife and another friend, who he claimed were university professors, for teaching the classes. Funds were transferred to his bank account via the other people's accounts or were passed to him in cash. He confessed he had used the money to settle gambling debts. The prosecution earlier provided evidence that Wan had made 18 deposits totalling HK$6.9 million in the joint bank account of Kwong and his wife. Kwong then used ATM machines or withdrew money from his account to return the money to Wan. The offences came to light on July 11 when Wan's supervisor challenged him after he had discovered original invoices for a claim for HK$780,000 and a previous claim for HK$980,000 were missing. Wan admitted to his boss he had stolen the money and then left for Macau the same day. Police arrested him when he returned to Hong Kong on July 14. The judge criticised a lack of monitoring of expense claims in the department. 'Approval was easy and there was no monitoring. The approval system was like nothing.' Wan, who had joined the government in 1971 and had worked with the health administration since 1980, was responsible for handling department payments. Kwong, who had worked for what was then the Medical and Health Department since 1967, said that he had agreed to help Wan because he was a good boss and a good friend. Judge Chan said there was no evidence to show that Kwong knew the source of the money or had benefited from the crime, but asked why Kwong would not have suspected Wan and had failed to ask why Wan had not used his own account. Barrister Yeung Yeuk-chuen, for Wan, asked the judge to take into consideration the fact that Wan had lost his HK$1 million pension and would end up living in poverty. The court heard that a 'non-satisfactory' heart operation in 2003 had preceded Wan's descent into gambling. But the judge said Wan's acts had damaged the civil service's integrity and resulted in the loss of HK$13.7 million of public money.