By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
The Labour Affairs Bureau’s (DSAL) decision to raid the Macau Asia Satellite TV (MASTV) headquarters in March was without any “prudent and comprehensive planning” and has “violated its obligation of quality management”, the Commission Against Corruption (CCAC) comments in its investigation report into the incident, adding that the bureau had also given false information in the press release issued after the anti-illegal worker operation.
The CCAC investigation was initiated after MASTV filed a complaint with the CCAC, questioning the legitimacy of the six-hour operation conducted jointly by the DSAL and Public Security Police on March 18, and whether it was “a blow against freedom of the press”.
No illegal workers were discovered at the TV station at that time.
According to the report released on the CCAC website Wednesday night, an anonymous letter received by DSAL on July 27, 2009 named six MASTV staff members as illegal workers, but the bureau failed to carry out any preliminary and basic investigation into these people’s identities to confirm their immigration status.
The CCAC said the operation was conducted without any “follow-up work or substantial evidence”, but simply because of “an anonymous letter”.
The graft buster pointed out that an administrative organ, before making any decision, must have to first “grasp substantial, reliable and comprehensive information and material related to the issue”. If this information or material is insufficient, an investigation should be implemented beforehand, the report adds.
Meanwhile, the CCAC criticised the DSAL for having waited more than seven months until they inspected the MASTV headquarters, during which no investigation was carried out.
“In this situation the inspection was no longer meaningful,” the commission said.
The CCAC commented that the bureau has allegedly breached the obligation of quality management and failed to follow the basic principles of the administrative law when making decisions.
Nevertheless, the report confirmed that the operation did not contain any interference with freedom of the press since it was only to examine the employees’ work status and not the TV station’s work content.
However, the problem was that the operation was not conducted based on sufficient proof and thus drew doubts over the motive, the CCAC said.
Since MASTV belongs to the television broadcasting industry the graft buster said the DSAL should have known that it had to be “extra cautious” in inspecting this kind of venues such as banks, pharmaceutical factories and chemical plants.
“[An administrative organ] cannot use any administrative means to directly or indirectly interfere or obstruct a news agency’s operations, unless there are justified reasons or otherwise it is a suspected violation of law,” it added.
After the incident the DSAL had issued a press release, explaining that MASTV was chosen as a result of a “drawing of lots”. Yet, the CCAC found that “it’s not the truth, as the information sent to the commission by the bureau showed no evidence” to support the claim.
In addition, the graft buster said the DSAL officers need to improve their ways of handling things and level of law enforcement, and post-inspection evaluations also “lack prudence”.
As a result, the CCAC advised the bureau to thoroughly review its existing illegal worker inspection system, differentiate between “regular inspections” and “special inspections”, formulate different inspection systems based on the business nature of the venues, clearly explain the reasons for arranging an operation, as well as to reinforce senior-level officers’ leadership skills and inspectors’ law enforcement level.
According to the report, in the written reply sent to the CCAC, the DSAL only accepted “part of the advice”. Also, the graft buster said the reply showed that the bureau could not fully understand, and even misunderstood, the commission’s stance on some issues.
The report has been delivered to the chief executive, DSAL and MASTV.