ICAC’s failure to appoint operations chief is hurting staff morale, former agency official says

Daniel Li Ming-chak, the ex-operations chief of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, says decision to extending the acting period for Ricky Yau Shu-chun was ‘very odd’

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 September, 2017, 6:05pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 September, 2017, 11:26pm

Staff morale is suffering at the city’s graft buster due to its failure to appoint an official head of operations, a former anti-corruption agency official has said.

The remarks by Daniel Li Ming-chak, former operations chief of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), came after the agency extended the acting period of the current acting operations head, Ricky Yau Shu-chun, for three more months in July. At the time, Yau had already been in the post for a year.

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“In my opinion it is very odd,” Li said after an interview with veteran Hong Kong democrat Emily Lau Wai-hing on online media

“There is an expectation from the officer acting in this position. At the same time the staff within the department would expect somebody in that position to be confirmed, rather than acting in the position for administrative convenience. It’s important. It has to do with the morale.”

Last year, ICAC went through a series of controversial shake-ups, including the removal of operations head Rebecca Li Bo-lan from her post in July, which sparked an uproar.

Rebecca Li resigned after the commissioner Simon Peh Yun-lu terminated her acting appointment and asked her to step back into her previous role as director of investigations for the public sector.

Pro-democracy lawmakers linked her demotion to a probe she was leading into the HK$50 million payment that then chief executive Leung Chun-ying received from the Australian company UGL.

But Peh took sole responsibility, saying that she failed to meet the job requirements and denied Leung had anything to do with the controversial move.

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Her successor, Yau, withdrew his resignation within hours of his departure being announced. The internal wrangling hurt the standing of the agency and put Peh’s leadership into question.

Speaking to the media last Friday, Peh did not state clearly if he would confirm Yau as his right hand man, only saying that Yau was acting in the position for the purpose of administrative convenience and that there was no fixed acting period.

Peh also denied the agency had a morale problem.

Daniel Li, who is well-known for his critical views on Peh, slammed ICAC for lacking transparency on the issue and said the agency should clearly explain what the job requirements were and why Yau was not up to the standard.

“What happens if he still fails to meet the benchmark after acting for one more year? Where is the agency going to find a person who is up to the standard to fill in the place? The issue provoked a chain of questions and is not fair to the acting personnel,” Daniel Li said. “He had been acting the position for so long and bearing the responsibility. But he cannot be confirmed.”

In a reply to the Post, the ICAC said in accordance with the existing government guidelines, an individual officer may act for “ administrative convenience” to perform in the capacity of an office and undertake its duties and responsibilities to meet management or operational needs.

“Yau has been acting head of operations for administrative convenience since July 18, 2016,” the reply read. “The length of the acting period will depend on actual requirements.”

The agency refused to comment further.