My Take

Leave the ICAC out of petty political games

The use of the corruption watchdog to score political points is not only shameless but undermines the body’s credibility

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 March, 2017, 3:31am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 March, 2017, 3:31am

The political exploitation of the Independent Commission Against Corruption continues apace by shameless politicians. The latest is initiated by Claudia Mo Man-ching, formerly of the Civic Party.

Funny how just days before the chief executive election, the pan-democratic lawmaker suddenly insinuates in the legislature that the ICAC has launched a probe into front runner Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

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Apparently, Mo complained in early January and the graft buster “opened a file” over Lam’s role in launching a plan to build a version of Beijing’s Palace Museum in the West Kowloon arts hub when she was still chief secretary.

Mo alleged there had been “an inappropriate transfer of benefits” that could amount to “misconduct in public office”.

As mud-slinging goes, this is just amateurish. Even political mud-slinging has standards, and Mo clearly has no ideas, as she doesn’t with anything else. But this kind of abuse of the ICAC has been committed by pan-democratic politicians in the past, most infamously in the case of former Executive Council member Franklin Lam Fan-keung, who had to resign but was later fully exonerated.

Actually, if I go through the trouble of reporting to the ICAC that there might have been “an inappropriate transfer of benefits” in Mo’s involvement in the Palace Museum case, the ICAC would be obliged to open a file on Mo, too.

I don’t need to offer any evidence, just tell a story of suspicion, and I can write a column that Mo is now being investigated. “Opening a file” with the ICAC can mean anything, like taking down names and addresses.

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The real thing is to launch a formal or active investigation, and investigators don’t tell you that.

As head of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, Lam may or may not have bypassed established bidding procedures over the museum. But a corrupt transfer of benefits – to whom?

What is most disturbing about dirty tactics like Mo’s is that they are undermining the credibility of the ICAC. If the ICAC opens a file, people claim an investigation is under way. But if, as is usually the case, nothing comes out of it, they question its integrity and whether it has been under government pressure. They do all this – just to score a few political points or make a soundbite for TV news.