Hong Kong leader tells ICAC commissioner to handle staff succession ‘well’ amid speculation over vacant post

City’s chef executive says she met Independent Commission Against Corruption commissioner Simon Peh following criticism that the top corruption investigator position has been vacant for three years

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 July, 2018, 6:12pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 July, 2018, 10:34pm

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has called on the city’s top graft-buster to handle personnel management “well” after his decision to leave the top corruption investigator job vacant for years drew criticism and speculation.

The chief executive for the first time revealed on Thursday that she had made the call to Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) commissioner Simon Peh Yun-lu in a recent meeting with him.

Lam was addressing a question from Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting, who said it was dubious that Peh had not yet officially appointed a head of the agency’s powerful investigation unit, the Operations Department, after the post was left vacant in July 2015.

The current acting operations chief Ricky Yau Shu-chun has been in the position for administrative convenience since July 2016.

Hong Kong’s ICAC chief warns of corruption in Belt and Road countries

It was understood that Peh was Yau’s appraiser while Carrie Lam, as the chief executive, had to counter-sign the appraisal.

“The key post is responsible for leading the ICAC to formulate its long-term anti-corruption policies and to set the investigative direction for important cases,” said the democrat, formerly an investigator at the watchdog.

“The current acting operations chief does not even know whether he will stay in the position after three months, how could he even be able to lead the ICAC to map out its long-term strategies?”

Yau’s enforcing power is renewed by Peh every three months.

In response, Carrie Lam said she had mentioned the personnel issue to Peh in a recent regular meeting with him.

“I have called on him to handle the staff succession well in order to ensure the smooth operation of the ICAC,” Carrie Lam said. But she emphasised she had not told Peh what to do and would leave it in his hands.

But the democrat called on the chief executive to put more pressure on Peh, saying it was very unusual for such an important position to be left vacant for three years.

“It is not just about personnel management, but also about public interest,” said Lam Cheuk-ting, adding it was necessary to resolve the problem immediately as two directors of investigation and right-hand men of Yau would retire by the end of this year and next year.

In an earlier interview with the Post, Peh argued that there was no “fixed term” for an acting position and that the agency had been functioning well.

In 2016, 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.

Li resigned after Peh terminated her acting appointment and asked her to step back into her previous role as director of investigations for the public sector. Yau was subsequently appointed to act in the post.

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.