Public procurement and recruitment were the main issues on the table for the Commission Against Corruption (CCAC) in the year of 2016, of which reports or complaints against public departments accounted for the majority of the total it received last year.
According to its 2016 annual report published yesterday, the city’s anti-graft watchdog received 910 reports and complaints last year, a rebounding growth of 15 per cent year-on-year following decreases in the number of cases for two consecutive years in 2014 and 2015.
Of the total cases, 252 were listed as criminal while the other 658 were complaints against public departments. Most of the cases were filed by local residents – at 839 – while 23 others were transferred to the Commission by other public entities.
Regarding the alleged bribery case of former Prosecutor-general Ho Chio Meng last year, Commissioner Andre Cheong Weng Chon wrote in the report that the crackdown demonstrated that the Commission is able to track down both “tigers” and “flies” –high-ranking officials and low-ranking bureaucrats.
Remarking that the Ho Chio Meng case is the most noteworthy case from last year, the Commission said that the general impact of other uncovered cases were also bigger compared to previous years.
‘A crackdown of one case triggered a few other reports of similar cases. For example, after [CCAC] busted a case related to the Transport Bureau and a car park management company, many other reports were filed against car park management,’ the report reads.
Corruption cases on the rise
The Commission also noted that the criminal cases related to other public departments had expanded to bodies under different secretariats vis-a-vis previous years, when cases primarily related to within local security forces.
‘2016’s criminal cases covered the Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau, the Health Bureau, the Social Welfare Bureau, the Marine and Water Bureau, the Housing Bureau and the list goes on,’ the report reads.
The anti-graft watchdog concluded that the year’s criminal cases were primarily related to fraud, forgery and abuse of power, whereas most of the fraud cases were related to government subsidies.
In addition, the anti-graft body added that criminal cases occurring in private entitles posted an increase for last year. In particular, there were a number of cases related to local property management committees and property management companies.
‘This reflects the complex relations between local property management companies, property owners and property management committee, whose inter-conflicts are quite significant, which also shows related laws on property management need to be improved,’ the Commission wrote.
According to CCAC, it also received 1,102 enquiries or requests for help in the year of 2016, of which 453 were related crimes while 649 involved government departments.
It received 19 requests of assistance from other anti-graft bodies outside the MSAR last year, of which 15 were from China and four were from Hong Kong’s ICAC. Likewise, CCAC requested assistance on nine cases from Mainland China and Hong Kong authorities.
Procurement: Door to corruption
Meanwhile, the anti-graft watchdog warned that the MSAR Government should urgently address departments’ procurement procedures given the many illegalities arising from them.
‘From the criminal cases busted by CCAC last year, it is found that the situations of suspects making use of loopholes in the law system or the supervision system to conspire and collude with parties outside the government are serious,’ the Commission noted.
It added that the government departments’ direct grants of service contracts to awardees – thus avoiding opening public tenders or asking for quotations for public services – were not in accordance with legal procedures and represented another significant problem to be addressed.
The Commission pointed out that these wrongful procurement actions of public departments – despite the excuse of ‘saving time’ – will increase the risks of corruption and abuse of power given the reduction in publicity and transparency of public procurement.
‘CCAC perceives the current public procurement system is severely lagging behind. The Administration needs to amend the current [law and related regulations] based upon the actual social situation as soon as possible. Simplifying procurement procedures, [the government] needs to strengthen its mechanisms of supervision and inspection,’ the anti-graft body said.
Jobs not well done
Also an Ombudsman, the anti-corruption body slammed public departments’ lack of knowledge of Administration procedures and regulations regarding recruiting civil servants.
‘Some departments allow the existence of the wrongful situations even they know it’s not correct. Meanwhile, they only corrected the faults reluctantly after the Commission issued a warning,’ claimed the body.
Last month, CCAC released a report revealing that the Cultural Affairs Bureau (CAB) had used an illegal method to recruit a large number of its workers via the acquisition of services, rather than launching open or central recruitment systems in a regulated way.
But this does not only happen in CAB.
Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) and the Marine and Water Bureau were also revealed to have hired workers who did not even meet the minimum education requirements for their positions.
In 2015, CCAC found that MGTO had re-recruited an Office retiree as an officer in 2013, despite the fact that the worker did not hold any degree of territory education that the position required.
Following the discovery of the Commission, MGTO wrote a letter to the anti-graft body saying it had negated its contract with the related worker. But the Commission later found that the tourism body had only changed this to recruiting this worker by a two-month labour contract, renewing the worker’s contract whenever it expired and offered the worker a monthly salary of MOP65,000.
The situation continued until February of last year, when the tourism body obtained approval from the Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture to appoint the worker as an advisor to MGTO based upon a personal labour contract.
Nevertheless, CCAC said this worker does not possess any “special talents” for being an advisor to MGTO, adding that the worker’s job responsibilities as an advisr were exactly the same as those for his previous positions.
CCAC claimed MGTO recruited the worker via administrative appointment contract in October 2016 following a warning issued by the Commission.
The Marine and Water Affairs Bureau was also discovered to have hired one worker who had not obtained any tertiary education certificates as a second grade officer in the Bureau.