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An estimated 7-minute read

"Jana Lokpal Bill" and "The Independent Commission Against Corruption (IACC) of Hong Kong"

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"Jana  Lokpal Bill" and  "The Independent Commission Against Corruption (IACC) of Hong Kong"

Now that the job of drafting of an effective, transparent and accountable LokPal Bill has started. Nation is looking forward at the Joint Committee to draft this bill with enough checks and balances to ensure that nation has the best institution to fight corruption adequately and at the same time protect India's constitutional Democracy.

The ICAC of Hong Kong, used a three pronged strategy of which the third is something we shouldn't leave aside while we try to make a powerfull commission.

  • Investigation,
  • Prevention and
  • community education

This strategy works by making corruption a high risk crime through vigorous law enforcement, eradicating corruption loopholes through enhanced system controls and inculcating a culture of integrity by educating the community against the evils of corruption and enlisting their support."

India can fast forward into a corruption free culture through education of society especially young Indians who would take up position of leadership and government of offices in the future.

Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC, Hong Kong)

The ICAC was set up on 15th February, 1974 to fight corruption through a three-pronged strategy of investigation, prevention and community education.

The strategy works by making corruption a high risk crime through vigorous law enforcement, eradicating corruption loopholes through enhanced system controls and inculcating a culture of integrity by educating the community against the evils of corruption and enlisting their support.

Conditions in Hong Kong Before formation of ICAC

As Hong Kong got back on its feet after World War 2 , the population began to swell and manufacturing industries grew, and by the 1960s Hong Kong was experiencing economic growth. Against this background the government kept Civil Service salaries very low which led to the demand for 'tea money', 'lucky money' or substantially larger sums by the Civil Servants to supplement their low wages.

Even in the health sector nursing sisters demanded money to provide extra blankets and/or food or to allow visitors outside normal hours.

Even firemen who have to save the lives in emergency also used to say, "no money no water" and in fact sometimes asked for money to turn off the water, preventing water damage, once a fire had been put out; officials in Lands and Public Works departments secured huge sums of money for 'advice' and 'signatures' that procured the award of tenders and enabled developments and projects to proceed;

Finally the police who have to protect the society from these social evils , the Royal Hong Kong Police was also in on the act and entire stations were organised to 'make money' from hawkers, licences and in many other illicit schemes. Civil servants often had to pay for promotions and postings in positions known for a lucrative return.

In this way Hong Kong was awash with money, and poorly paid civil servants made sure that their wages were supplemented by it. That is not to say that those in private business/employment - from bankers to exporters from taxi drivers to restaurant workers - were scrupulously clean, the whole of Hong Kong was on the take.

In those situations ,The newly-formed Independent Commission Against Corruption was created to root out corruption; unlike the old police Anti-Corruption Branch, the new ICAC would be answerable to only the Governor of Hong Kong. Most ICAC operations staff were sergeants recruited from specifically UK police forces and were certainly not beyond sharp practices themselves. Their tactics and methods were often crude and aggressive in the extreme, often they would sweep down to a police station and take an entire shift in for questioning. Such questioning was often just a 'fishing exercise'. Ultimately though their shock tactics were effective.

Organisation of IACC

The ICAC has three divisions: Operations, Community Relations, and Corruption Prevention. The Operations department is the largest by far, has 72 percent of the staff, and is responsible for all the high-profile busts. This largest department considers itself all powerful, and has apparently resisted all attempts to interfere with its investigations. The exercise of its power has allegedly relegated the Commissioner to a figurehead role. The investigation into circulation fraud by Sally Aw at The Standard has been cited as an example of the embarrassment caused by such non-cooperation with the government hierarchy.

Affect of ICAC

In the early days there were running punch-ups between ICAC officers and angry policemen who stormed their offices in Central District; this situation ended only with the announcement of a partial amnesty for minor corruptions committed before 1977.

But gradually, the ICAC made itself felt and several high profile police officers were tried and convicted. Others were forced to retire. As a result of its investigations, a mass purge took place in early 1978, where it was announced that 119 officers including one customs official were asked to leave under the provisions of Colonial Regulation 55 to fast track the decisions in the public interest a further 24 officers were held on conspiracy charges, 36 officers and a customs official were given amnesties.[1] The move received a mixed response from the public whilst being broadly supported by legislative councillors as being in the best interests of Hong Kong not to let the affair fester and further demoralise the police Force.

Hong Kong has been transformed from a graft-ridden city into one of the cleanest places in the world, as recognised by international institutions such as the World Bank, the Heritage Foundation and the

Transparency International. Some countries have looked up to the ICAC as an effective model of combating graft holistically through detection, prevention and education.

In the 1970s, eight out of 10 graft complaints were against public officers. This trend has reversed over the years. Complaints against police officers reduced by 70% - from 1,443 in 1974 to 446 in 2007. Nowadays, only three out of 10 complaints relate to public servants. Private sector cases meanwhile have been on the rise in recent years. The ICAC has stepped up efforts to help enterprises minimise corruption risks through system controls and staff training.

In 2008, corruption reports received by the ICAC dropped six per cent to 3,377, of which 65 per cent were related to the private sector, 28 per cent concerned government departments, and the remaining seven per cent were against public bodies.

Why was ICAC so successful?

a)     Independency-The investigation can only be effective if it is truly independent and free from undue interference. This depends very much on whether there is a top political will to fight corruption in the country.


b)    Adequate investigative power-Because corruption is so difficult to investigate, you need adequate investigative power. such as power to check bank accounts, requiring suspects to declare their assets, requiring witnesses to answer questions on oath, restraining properties suspected to be derived from corruption, holding the suspects' travel documents to prevent them from fleeing the jurisdiction. Not only are we empowered to investigate corruption offences, both in the Government and private sectors but all crimes which are connected with corruption.


c)     Adequate resources - investigating corruption can be very time-consuming and resource intensive, particularly dealing with cross jurisdictional corruption cases. it was only 0.05% of Hong kong Gross Domestic Product (GDP).


d)    Confidentiality - it is crucial that all corruption investigation should be conducted covertly and confidentially, before overt action is ready, so as to reduce the opportunities for compromise or interference. On the other hand, many targets under investigation may prove to be innocent and it is only fair to preserve their reputation before there is clear evidence of their corrupt deeds. Hence in Hong Kong, a law prohibiting any one from disclosing any details of ICAC investigation until overt action such as arrests and searches have been taken. The media once described this as a "press gag law" but they now come to accept it as a right balance between press freedom and effective law enforcement.


e)     International mutual assistance - many corruption cases are now cross jurisdictional and it is important that can obtain international assistance in the areas such as locating witnesses and suspects, money trails, surveillance, exchange of intelligence, arrest, search and extradition.


f)     Professionalism - all the investigators must be properly trained and professional in their investigation. The Honk Kong ICAC strives to be one of the most professional law enforcement agencies in the world. We are one of the first agencies in the world to introduce the interview of all suspects under video, because we recognize that professional interview technique and protecting the integrity of the interview evidence are crucial in any corruption investigation.

Witness Protection Section

ICAC has experienced cases where crucial witnesses were compromised, with one even murdered, before giving evidence. There should be a comprehensive system to protect crucial witnesses, including 24 hours arms protection, safe housing, new identity and overseas relocation. Some of these measures require legislative backing.
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