26 October 2016
The ICAC issued two press releases within three hours Friday evening following an internal drama surrounding the resignation of a top official. Photos: HKEJ
The ICAC issued two press releases within three hours Friday evening following an internal drama surrounding the resignation of a top official. Photos: HKEJ

What’s going on at the ICAC?

Spare a thought for Ricky Yu Chun-cheong amid all the latest drama at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). 

On Friday, Yu suffered an embarrassment as he was elevated to the No. 2 position at the anti-graft agency for just two-and-a-half hours before being told that the appointment was cancelled.

The bizarre development came about as ICAC’s acting head of the Operations Department, Ricky Yau Shu-chun, took back his resignation within hours of announcement of his departure from the agency.

On July 29, the ICAC issued a press release at 6.26 pm to declare that Yau, who took the reins of the Operations Department just a month ago, was quitting and that Yu will be taking his post. 

But at 8.59 pm, the anti-graft body released another statement to inform that Yau had withdrawn his resignation and that Yu need not take up the new duties.

Yu, who is Director of Investigation (Government Sector), will continue in his existing position, the statement said.

Yau took back his resignation “after staff members of the Operations Department expressed profound wishes for him to remain in office and after having considered the overall interest of the Commission”, ICAC said.

While the agency may be feeling relieved at Yau’s move, we can’t but help feel sorry for Yu as his promotion to the No. 2 post at the ICAC lasted for just two hours and 33 minutes.

Now, who is going to compensate him for the embarrassment as well as his likely sacrifice?

It is anyone’s guess as to what exactly happened behind closed doors at the anti-graft agency, which has been facing a credibility crisis recently due to abrupt departure of some senior staff.

The random, if not absurd, senior management reshuffle at the agency is something that we have not seen at any government department or even commercial organization in recent times.

Early last month, ICAC’s then acting head of operations Rebecca Li was replaced all of a sudden, with the agency offering an unconvincing explanation that her performance was not up to the mark.

Later, two other senior officials — Principal Investigator Dale Ko and Chief Forensic Accountant Tang Shuk-nei — put in their papers, underlining the chaotic situation within the organization.

The departure of Rebecca Li, who had been the first female head of the ICAC’s powerful investigative unit, has especially raised several questions in minds of observers.

Democratic Party member Albert Ho Chun-yang said he suspects Li was made to pay the price as she was involved in an investigation related to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

Leung has been accused of failing to making proper disclosures in the past in connection with a HK$50 million payout he received from an Australian firm.

ICAC Commissioner Simon Peh has denied that political factors played a part in Li’s departure, but many of the agency’s own staff were unconvinced.

It was reported that more than 80 per cent of the ICAC staff opted not to participate in a staff party last month, forcing the cancellation of the event.

Now, following the drama surrounding Yau, Peh faces an even bigger challenge to bring things to order and dispel the misgivings of the agency’s staff as well as the general public.

Meanwhile, the city’s political leadership will also be greater scrutiny given the suspicions that it is meddling in the affairs of the anti-corruption body.

The ICAC had earlier seen its reputation get dented due to the improper conduct of its former chief Timothy Tong.

Tong, who served as ICAC commissioner between 2007 and 2012, was accused of lavish spending on food and gifts to mainland officials, apart from other improprieties.

He was cleared in a criminal investigation but that didn’t end the blows to ICAC’s image.

Last week’s bizarre events appear to be just one more chapter in a long saga.

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