A DECISION will be made next year on the future of the Government's controversial vetting system which was originally scheduled to be taken over by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). Since September 1, a team of civilians working for the police, but under the authority of the Civil Service Branch, has been carrying out the task. The team had been asked to check a person's integrity rather than his politics, which had been taken into consideration before. Anyone found to have pro-communist leanings would have found his chances of promotion severely limited. The main aim of the new policy is to vet civil service applicants, those seeking promotion or transfers, and long term government officials who have held senior posts for at least five years. The checks on the latter category will be known as 'extended vetting' and will cover heads of department at D5 level and above. Previously, the task had been carried out by the Special Branch, the political wing of the police set up in 1949 to combat a perceived communist threat from China and other countries, but the unit is due to close next year. The duty was meant to have been passed to the ICAC on July 1, but the proposal came under close scrutiny following allegations by Alex Tsui Ka-kit that the anti-graft body had been involved in gathering political intelligence. The claims by Mr Tsui, who was sacked from his job as a deputy director of the commission in July last year, had been strenuously denied by the ICAC and the Governor, Chris Patten. But a number of legislators feared the anti-graft force was getting too powerful and the ICAC Review Committee, chaired by Dr Helmut Sohmen, is still looking into the issue. Principal Assistant Secretary for the Civil Service, Sally Wong Pik-yee, who is in charge of the vetting role, said the unit will continue in its current form until a report on its role is completed. Ms Wong said the Civil Service Branch became the policy wing in control of vetting on September 1, but that it is run by a team of civilians working under the Director of Criminal Investigations, Assistant Commissioner Tsang Yam-pui. However, she said, no extended checks had yet been carried out. The ICAC Review Committee, set up in January to look at the force's powers, was meant to have completed a report on the proposed shift of the vetting duty but asked for more time to consider the issue in greater depth. The committee's decision is due to be included in a submission to the Governor at the end of the year.