[審計申訴專員及官隙] Editorial ICAC’s credibility

【明報專訊】MORE AND MORE information has come to light about former ICAC commissioner Timothy Tong’s overspending on entertainment and gifts. It is clear from what our reporters have gathered that his misconduct involved not only himself but also others. Furthermore, it seems clear that some are trying to create the impression that officers of the ICAC adhere to its rules and procedures and one should rightly conclude none has done anything wrong and none should be held liable.

Our reporters have discovered by referring to records that the amount of money Timothy Tong spent on gifts when he was ICAC commissioner is actually several times that the ICAC indicated the other day ($220,000). At least a sum of $48,000 spent on cookies and mooncakes was excluded.

We gather the sum was “hidden" because some ICAC officers thought neither cookies nor mooncakes counted as gifts and it was not an expenditure on gifts that should be made public. It is crucial who should decide what amounts to a gift and what should count as a gift expenditure because that may have to do with whether a cover-up has been attempted. In replying to our enquiry, the ICAC denied any such attempt, saying the ICAC officers who looked at the information in question thought gifts did not include foods and thus excluded pastries. The idea that one who offers another a food product does not make the other a gift is presumably at odds with ordinary people’s perception. Were the ICAC right, expensive foods like abalone, red bird’s nest, ginseng and Chinese caterpillar fungus would not count as gifts. Then what would be the point of limiting the value of a gift? Would that not justify and legalise bribery?

The fact that the expenditure on cookies and mooncakes Timothy Tong gave away when he visited other places is absent from the ICAC’s list shows he misbehaved with ICAC officers’ cooperation. It is worth finding out what functions those people served. While Timothy Tong’s misconduct was mainly his doing, it had something to do with the ICAC’s organisation and accounting system. Only if this is perceived will it be possible to find the truth and prescribe what may help refurbish the ICAC’s image.

Though ICAC commissioner Simon Peh has said he will deal with the matter totally impartially, his assertion that his colleagues always do things by the book and are never dishonest may prove premature, for the sophistry that food products do not count as gifts can hardly be called honest.

We have pointed this out for the purpose of reminding ICAC commissioner Simon Peh that he ought to be clear what has actually happened and must play no part in any cover-up or any attempt to shield any wrongdoer. The “ICAC-gate" shows the ICAC’s code of ethics has been seriously undermined. To save themselves, corrupt officers will go to any lengths to avail themselves of any loopholes in the ICAC’s rules and procedures. If they are allowed to have their own way, the pathogen of corruption will spread in the ICAC and harm its constitution. In that event, its spiritual outlook can never be restored to its former appearance. This is a critical moment – a turning point in the fight against corruption in Hong Kong. We hope Simon Peh will stay highly vigilant and avoid drowning in the cesspit of the ICAC. We hope he will do whatever he can to open up a new dimension with a view to safeguarding clean government – which is part of Hong Kong’s core values.

明報社評2013.04.26﹕若讓程序醬缸掩飾腐敗 廉署公信力將一沉不起








bribery﹕the giving or taking of bribes

by the book﹕following rules and instructions in a very strict way

pathogen﹕something that causes disease

vigilant﹕very careful to notice any signs of danger or trouble

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