Friday, 1 June 2012

15 Years Later, New Rules for the CE

The Chief Executive of Hong Kong should regard himself as "the chief servant of the people".

That's the finding of an independent committee that spent three months looking into the scandals Chief Executive Donald Tsang was embroiled in earlier this year, caught hanging out with tycoons on a yacht in Macau, to a cheap deal to rent a penthouse in Shenzhen.

The committee, led by former chief justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang, said Tsang would have been open to prosecution for accepting favours from tycoons under a new law it is proposing, as for the past 15 years there have been no guidelines for the chief executive to follow.

Chief Executive-elect Leung Chun-ying welcomed the recommendations and pledged to implement them as soon as possible.

The committee is proposing it be a criminal offense for the chief executive to solicit or accept any advantage without the permission of a statutory independent committee. In turn, offering an advantage to the chief executive without lawful authority or a reasonable excuse would also be considered an offense.

It added the chief executive must follow the rules at least as strict as those for political appointees and top civil servants.

"It would be a criminal offense for the chief executive to accept any advantage, including any gift, hotel accommodation, any purchase or rental of premises at an undervalued price, any passage, whether on a commercial airplane, private jet or private yacht without the permission of the committee," Li said. "We advise the chief executive to follow the maxim, 'if in doubt,' don't."

The maximum penalty would be one year's imprisonment and a fine of HK$100,000.

It seems the description covers practically all the wrong doings Tsang did in his years as CE.

And it's pretty amazing he and former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa were able to get away with having no rules apply to them at all for the past 15 years until now, when a news photographer happened to catch Tsang on a luxury yacht in Macau.

"The present system is totally inappropriate and has a fundamental defect that it exempts the chief executive from the strict regime applied to politically appointed officials and civil servants," Li said, adding Hong Kong's leader should not be above the law.

The former chief justice refused to comment on whether Tsang set a bad example, and instead said improving the system was the key.

Earlier Tsang had said he followed his own "internal rule" when accepting benefits.

"The absence of documentation on such a matter is not consistent with the proper conduct of public administration," Li said. If the new rules are implemented, all gifts would be recorded in a register and made available to the public.

Tsang is a career civil servant and still he did not feel he had to follow the rules or establish them formally as chief executive. Being a church boy didn't deter him from taking advantage of his standing at all either.

While all these new regulations are great, Tsang will not be subject to them.

What is hard to understand is that before 1997 no one went over the rules and regulations of the chief executive and realized there was a major loophole in terms of accountability?

There are less than 30 days left to go before Tsang leaves office and he leaves behind a legacy of free-spending ways and cozying up to tycoon buddies for a good here and there.

Makes Grandpa Tung look like a saint.

Ah the perks of being a CE.

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