ICAC steps up checks amid voting changes

Local | Michael Shum 10 May 2021

The Independent Commission Against Corruption is prepared to step up corruption prevention work targeting the new sectors introduced following electoral changes, commissioner Simon Peh Yun-lu said.

The watchdog will also be tasked with investigating actions inciting others to cast blank or invalid votes, which will be made an offense after the Legislative Council passed the Improving Electoral System (Consolidated Amendments) Bill.

Peh said yesterday the ICAC has already set up a task force to follow the electoral changes after new sectors were added to the Election Committee elections.

"There are sectors and organizations who had never joined past elections, so our work would have to cover all directions," Peh said.

"That would include education and promotion among organizations and individual voters regarding the prevention of bribery and the way to elect a candidate in a fair, impartial and transparent manner."

As the Election Committee elections will be held on September 19 - with voter registrations ending at the beginning of July - the schedule is tight so the ICAC will immediately start its work, said Peh.

"We have already prepared a huge amount of brochures and leaflets, alongside advertisements on television, radio stations, websites and new media platforms. We will also provide guidelines to them through the Registration and Electoral Office," he added.

Peh also said the ICAC will not consider the organizations, backgrounds or political affiliations of candidates.

On the other hand, Peh said the ICAC faces a new territory for its investigative work as inciting others to cast blank or invalid votes will now be regarded as a breach of the law.

"We will be in touch with the Department of Justice if we need assistance in further understanding relevant information and will provide more explanation to citizens as soon as possible," Peh said.

When asked whether he thinks there will be difficulties in the implementation, Peh said they have yet to go through an in-depth discussion with the department, but the ICAC will "put its best foot forward" in implementing the new law.

Peh also said the number of corruption complaints last year dropped by 16 percent year on year, citing reduced financial activity amid the pandemic as the reason for it.

"As the economy is gradually recovering this year, the number of complaints in the first three months this year have increased by 11 percent year on year, while cases in the construction industry have increased by 120 percent," he said.

"This mainly involves subcontractors or site supervisors accepting bribes or introduction fees from applicants due to the high unemployment rate. I would like to call on construction workers not to tolerate, but instead report cases to the ICAC."

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