Anti-graft watchdog in HK gets rapped for lavish spending

Anti-graft watchdog in HK gets rapped for lavish spending
The committee said the amount of alcohol consumed under Mr Tong's tenure was 'high' with 114 bottles of hard liquor bought in 2012/13.

HONG KONG'S reputable graft-buster, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), has come under heavy fire for tarnishing the city's reputation "as a place of probity" and its own standing as an anti-corruption watchdog.

After a six-month inquiry, a Legislative Council committee on Wednesday censured the body and its former ICAC chief Timothy Tong for what it called "deplorable" overspending on entertainment and trips during his five-year tenure from 2007 to last year, breaching government rules.

In particular, it expressed alarm over the amounts of moutai, a Chinese hard liquor, served during official functions.

"Not only had such serving of moutai increased the costs of the meals, official business of the ICAC, which might be confidential in nature, could also be divulged under the influence of alcohol," said Mr Abraham Shek, who chairs the public accounts committee.

Its report has no legal teeth, but the findings may be used for an ongoing criminal investigation into Mr Tong for bribery, conducted by the ICAC itself, said law academic Eric Cheung.

Current ICAC commissioner Simon Peh yesterday said the commission would study the report, adding that those found guilty could face criminal prosecution or disciplinary action. "If any new inadequacies are identified, prompt actions will be taken to rectify the shortcomings," he promised.

In its 89-page report, the committee noted that the ICAC's entertainment expenses in Mr Tong's last year of tenure were nearly three times the amount in 2003 under his predecessor.

In particular, the amount of alcohol consumed under his tenure was "high", with 114 bottles of hard liquor bought in 2012/13. To get around spending limits, entertainment bills were split.

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