Sunday, 15 July 2012

Caught Double Dipping

The Leung Chun-ying government is two weeks old and already one if its ministers has quit.

Mak Chai-kwong was development minister up until Friday when he was arrested by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) for abusing housing perks in the 1980s.

Turns out he and assistant director of highways Tsang King-man bought flats on the same day in the same building called City Garden in North Point, one floor above each other. It is not clear if they used a housing loan available to civil servants to purchase these homes.

Then they allegedly rented out their flats to each other, and each applied for a housing allowance, a civil service benefit.

This supposed double dipping is obviously against the rules, but it doesn't seem there were any checks and balances in place at the time to make sure everyone did not abuse the benefits.

Apparently many who were in the civil service knew about this loophole and so Mak and Tsang are not the only ones who violated the rules.

My great aunt remembers her husband who taught in a government school in Yuen Long many decades ago was eligible for a cigarette allowance.

He was chided for not taking advantage of the extra money because he did not smoke.

"This is how civil servants are encouraged to do corruption," my sagely great aunt said. "It's not about taking advantage of the system -- it's worrying that others are benefiting more than you are."

Yesterday Mak apologized to the public about creating such a fiasco and did not want to say anymore because he may be charged and then probably be tried in court.

If he is found guilty he could be fined HK$500,000 and seven years in jail. But probably the worse punishment is that he and Tsang could lose their pensions, and in Mak's case that's 37 years of working in the civil service.

No wonder people are keen to get into the civil service... but surely now with all these scandals coming out the good days are over?

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