Independent Commission Against Corruption (Hong Kong)


Independent Commission Against Corruption (Hong Kong)

Infobox Government agency
agency_name = Independent Commission Against Corruption
nativename_a = 廉政公署

formed = 15th February, 1974
headquarters = ICAC Building, 303 Java Road, North Point, Hong Kong
employees = 1,213 (June 2007) [http://www.icac.org.hk/icac/hq/eng/08.html]
budget = 756.9 m HKD (2008-09) [http://www.budget.gov.hk/2008/eng/pdf/head072.pdf]
chief1_name = Timothy HM Tong
chief1_position = Commissioner
chief2_name =
chief2_position =
parent_agency =
child1_agency =
website = [http://www.icac.org.hk/ www.icac.org.hk]
footnotes =

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC; zh-c|c=廉政公署; and _zh. 總督特派廉政專員公署 before 1997) of Hong Kong was established by Governor Murray MacLehose on 15 February 1974, when Hong Kong was under British rule. Its main aim was to clean up endemic corruption in the Hong Kong Government and, in particular, the Royal Hong Kong Police Force (now Hong Kong Police Force). The ICAC is headed by the Commissioner.

Since the transfer of sovereignty in 1997, the Commissioner of ICAC is appointed by the State Council of the People's Republic of China, on the recommendations of the Chief Executive of Hong Kong.

The ICAC is independent of the civil service. The Basic Law of Hong Kong stipulates that the ICAC shall function independently and be accountable to the Chief Executive.

Background

The Hong Kong Police had previously had an Anti-Corruption Branch, but it did little to reduce corruption. There was a popular perception among Hong Kong locals the Anti Corruption cops essentially, following the discovery of corrupt practises, would then enter themselves into the dodgy deals.

A particular example was Peter Fitzroy Godber, a senior officer at Wanchai police station and later at Kai Tak Airport police station. Before his retirement due date in 1973, he had amassed no less than 4.3 million Hong Kong Dollars (approximately 600,000 US Dollars) in his overseas bank accounts. The police anti-corruption branch investigated his mysterious wealth and ordered him to explain his source of income. In response, Godber immediately arranged for his wife to leave the colony, then he used his police airport pass to bypass Immigration and Passport checks and walked onto a plane for London. Godber's escape led to a large public outcry over the integrity of the quality of the police's self-investigation and called for reforms in the government's anti-corruption efforts.

The newly-formed Independent Commission Against Corruption was created to root out corruption; unlike the old Police Anti-Corruption Branch, the new ICAC would be answerable to only the Governor of Hong Kong. Local cynics first joked that "ICAC" stood for "Investigating Chinese Ancient Customs" or even "I Can Accept Cash".

Godber was eventually extradited and brought back to Hong Kong for trial in 1974 but not before the ICAC granted two other high-ranking police officers amnesty over their own corruptions. Godber was convicted and sentenced to four years in jail.

Development

In the early days there were running punch-ups between ICAC officers and angry policemen who stormed their offices in Central District; this situation ended only with the announcement of a partial amnesty for minor corruptions committed before 1977. But gradually, the ICAC made itself felt and several high profile police officers were tried and convicted. Others were forced to retire. As a result of its investigations, a mass purge took place in early 1978, where it was announced that 119 officers including one customs official were asked to leave under the provisions of Colonial Regulation 55 (see footnote 1 below) to fast track the decisions in the public interest; a further 24 officers were held on conspiracy charges, 36 officers and a customs official were given amnesties [cite news
title=119 forced to retire in graft purge
pages=1, 26
publisher=South China Morning Post
date=April 9, 1978
url=http://sunzi1.lib.hku.hk/newspaper/view/18_03.09/49135.pdf
accessdate=2006-10-24 |format=PDF
] . The move received a mixed response from the public whilst being broadly supported by Legislative councillors as being in the best interests of Hong Kong not to let the affair fester and further demoralise the Police Force [cite news
title= Graft purge receives mixed public response
publisher=The Gist
date=April 10, 1978
url=http://sunzi1.lib.hku.hk/newspaper/view/18_03.09/49141.pdf
accessdate=2006-10-24 |format=PDF
] . Urban Council member Elsie Elliot criticised the government for being lenient to senior corrupt officials, punishing only "small flies."

Hong Kong has been transformed from a graft-ridden city into one of the cleanest places in the world, as recognised by international institutions such as the World Bank, the Heritage Foundation and the Transparency International. Some countries have looked up to the ICAC as an effective model of combatting graft holistically through detection, prevention and education.

In the 1970s, eight out of 10 graft complaints were against policemen and public officers. This trend has reversed over the years. Complaints against police officers reduced by 70% - from 1,443 in 1974 to 446 in 2007. Nowadays, only three out of 10 complaints are related to public servants. Private sector cases meanwhile have been on the rise in recent years. The ICAC has stepped up efforts to help enterprises minimise corruption risks through system controls and staff training. [The statistics are provided by the ICAC.]

Constitutional status of the Commission

In preparation for Hong Kong's reunification with China in 1997, the National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China enacted the Hong Kong Basic Law in 1990, providing for the establishment of a Commission Against Corruption. This anti-graft agency thus subsists as a constitutionally sanctioned body. As a passing remark the name of the agency has been questioned as unconstitutional; however, as the Chinese version of the Basic Law prevails over the English version, this is not considered a misnomer. Another interpretation is that the Basic Law states only that such a commission has to be established without directing how it should be named.

Covert surveillance

In 2005, the evidence collected by the ICAC through covert surveillance in a case involving a publicly listed company was questioned. While the judge ruled that covert surveillance carried out in this case was unconstitutional due to the absence of relevant legal procedures, the judge admitted the evidence as he found that the ICAC had conducted the operations in good faith. The defendants were convicted.

Since the lack of legal procedures to govern covert surveillance was common to all law enforcement agencies in Hong Kong, the legislature subsequently passed a new law, the Interception and Covert Surveillance Ordinance (ICSO) in August 2006 to legitimise such operations. All covert surveillance operations of the ICAC are now carried out strictly in accordance with the ICSO which applies to all law enforcement agencies in Hong Kong.

An assistant ICAC investigator was jailed for 9 months on 4th April 2003 for lying in a court trial, to conceal the fact that he had threatened a suspect to co-operate with a probe by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). [cite news
title= Judge jails ICAC officer for perjury in a fraud trial A tape reveals the anti-graft investigator lied about inducing a witness to confess

publisher=South China Morning Post
date=April 5, 2003
url=http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-22886904_ITM
] So far, this is the only case of such a nature in ICAC history.

Organisation

Commissioners of the ICAC [ [http://www.legco.gov.hk/yr06-07/english/panels/se/papers/se1018cb2-186-1-e.pdf data from Legco HK] ]
*Sir Jack Cater February 15, 1974 - July 3, 1978
* Sir Donald Luddington July 4, 1978 - November 10, 1980
* Peter Barry Williams November 11, 1980 - December 31, 1984
* Geoffrey Thomas Barnes January 1, 1985 - February 28, 1988
* David Gregory Jeaffreson February 29, 1988 - November 30, 1991
* Peter James Allan January 12, 1991 - November 28, 1992
* Bertrand Edouard Doger de Speville February 22, 1993 - January 21, 1996
* Michael Leung Man-kin January 22, 1996- March 31, 1997
* Lily Yam April 1, 1997-July 11, 1999
* Alan Nai Lin July 15, 1999-June 30, 2002
* Ambrose S.K. Lee July 1, 2002-August 4, 2003
* Raymond H.C. Wong August 25, 2003-October 30, 2006
* Fanny Law October 31, 2006-June 30, 2007
* Timothy Tong July 1, 2007-

The ICAC has three divisions: Operations, Community Relations, and Corruption Prevention. The Operations department is the largest by far, has 72 percent of the staff, and is responsible for all the high-profile busts. This largest department considers itself all powerful, and has apparently resisted all attempts to interfere with its investigations. The exercise of its power has allegedly relegated the Commissioner to a figurehead role. The investigation into circulation fraud by Sally Aw at "The Standard" has been cited as an example of the embarrassment caused by such non-cooperation with the government hierarchy.cite web|url=http://www.thestandard.com.hk/news_detail.asp?pp_cat=&art_id=49029&sid=&con_type=1&d_str=19990630&sear_year=1999
title=Challenge facing ICAC's new chief
author=Danny Gittings
publisher=The Standard
date=June 30, 1999
accessdate=2008-07-28
]

References

Footnote 1

Colonial Regulation 55 is an executive provision of the highest order for which the colonial Government is not obliged to give cause. It stipulates that "An officer holds office subject to the pleasure of the Crown, and the pleasure of the Crown that he may no longer hold it may be signified through the Secretary of State, in which case no special formalities are required."

As a safeguard for this regulation, action must be taken by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in London after review by the Secretary of the Civil Service and the British Attorney General. The highest authority would have been the Lord Chancellor.

Its provisions were used approximately 25 times by the colonial Government as at 1978, including twice under Governor MacLehose.

Henry Litton, Chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Association questioned the use of Regulation 55, when Regulations 56 and 57 (which provides for "dismissal after due enquiry" before a judge) could have been used [cite news
title= Dismissals under fire
last=Guild
first=Frazer
publisher=Hong Kong Standard
date=April 8, 1978
url=http://sunzi1.lib.hku.hk/newspaper/view/18_03.09/49136.pdf
accessdate=2006-10-24 |format=PDF
] . He furthermore said " As far as I know, Colonial Regulations apply to only sovereign gazetted officers", and that "no Chinese policeman has ever been given a copy ...before signing on". Most Legislators supported the move as being under "exceptional circumstances" and "necessary."

[Note: The Colonial Regulation has been replaced by the Public Service (Amendment) Order after Hong Kong's reunification with China in 1997.]

External links

* [http://www.icac.org.hk/ Homepage of Independent Commission Against Corruption (Hong Kong)]
* [http://www.ccac.org.mo/en/ CCAC Website: Constitutionally sanctioned anti-graft government agency of Macau]


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