Widely regarded as one of the most successful anti-corruption agencies (ACAs) in the world, Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has been a model for many other similar organisations. Unfortunately, having a good reference does not guarantee the same results. Efforts to prevent corruption in many of the ACAs proved unavailing, some can even be considered as complete failure. The reasons behind the different performance were revealed in a recent book launch seminar hosted by Professor Ian SCOTT, Emeritus Professor and Fellow of the Asia Research Centre at Murdoch University, Perth, Australia and Professor Ting GONG, Department of Public Policy, City University of Hong Kong.
Prof Scott first explained that the success of an ACA is a complex interplay of the approach, overcoming crises and challenges, as well as political, organisational and social dynamics.
Photo 2: Corruption Prevention and Governance in Hong Kong by Professor Ian SCOTT and Professor Ting GONG
In term of the anti-corruption approach, he argued that neither the compliance-based (depends on regulations and penalties) nor the value-based approach (depends on an improvement of ethical standards to eliminate acts against the law) can stand alone and a right mix of both is key.
Hong Kong’s older generations may know that ICAC was set up to deal with the syndicated corruption in the police force and other parts of the civil service in the first place. This was also one of the biggest challenges encountered by ICAC, according to Prof Scott. Obviously ICAC did an excellent job in overcoming the challenge but not many ACAs were able to resolve the crisis they faced.
Prof Scott added that ICAC benefited from political support in its early years of establishment. Yet, having strong public support, being functionally well-organised and Hong Kong’s fair law enforcement are equally important to the success of ICAC.
A number of both current and former ICAC officials and public policy scholars were invited to the seminar. There were intense discussions, especially on the authors’ views of amending the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance (POBO) and making Misconduct in Public Office a statutory offence. The attendees thanked both speakers for bringing such an insightful seminar, and congratulated them on co-publishing the title “Corruption Prevention and Governance in Hong Kong”, in which the experience of ICAC is examined through an analysis of ICAC documents and surveys, the authors’ survey of social attitudes towards corruption in Hong Kong, and interviews with former officials.