LegCo Paper No. ESC 7/96-97
(These minutes have been seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB1/F/3/2
Minutes of the proceedings of the meeting
held on Wednesday, 6 November 1996
at 9:00 am in the Legislative Council Chamber
Members present :
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP (Chairman)
Dr Hon Anthony CHEUNG Bing-leung (Deputy Chairman)
Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
Hon Michael HO Mun-ka
Dr Hon HUANG Chen-ya, MBE
Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing
Dr Hon Samuel WONG Ping-wai, MBE, FEng, JP
Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon CHENG Yiu-tong
Hon IP Kwok-him
Hon LAW Chi-kwong
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
Hon Mrs Elizabeth WONG, CBE, ISO, JP
Members absent :
Dr Hon David K P LI, OBE, LLD (Cantab), JP
Hon SZETO Wah
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, OBE, JP
Hon Fred LI Wah-ming
Hon Henry TANG Ying-yen
Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, OBE, JP
Hon Paul CHENG Ming-fun
Hon Margaret NG
Public officers attending :
- Mr Kevin HO, JP
- Deputy Secretary for the Treasury
- Mr D W PESCOD
- Deputy Secretary for the Civil Service
- Miss Cathy CHU
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Security
- Dr W M CHAN, JP
- Assistant Director of Health
- Mr Albert K C LAM
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Financial Services
- Mr Arthur YUEN
- Head (Administration), Hong Kong Monetary Authority
- Mr Stephen S C POON, JP
- Senior Assistant Director of Housing
- Mr CHAN Kau-tai
- Chief Building Services Engineer of Housing Department
- Dr Iris BUDGE-REID
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower
- Mr Alfred WONG
- Controller, Student Financial Assistance Agency
- Mr Jeremy CROFT
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Home Affairs
- Mr Robin GILL
- Deputy Director of Information Services
Clerk in attendance :
- Mrs Constance LI
- Chief Assistant Secretary (Finance Committee)
Staff in attendance :
- Miss Pauline NG
- Assistant Secretary General 1
- Mr Andy LAU
- Senior Assistant Secretary (Finance Committee)
Proposed retention of a supernumerary post of Principal Executive Officer (D1) in 1997-98 draft Estimates in the Department of Health to facilitate the continued secondment of an officer to the Society for the Aid and Rehabilitation of the Drug Abusers as Executive Director
Noting that the salary of the Executive Director was already pitched at D1 level, members questioned why the Society for the Aid and Rehabilitation of Drug Abusers (SARDA) was still unable to find a suitable candidate through open recruitment. Members also queried why open recruitment was not conducted after 1994.
2. In response, the Assistant Director of Health (AD of H) advised that in the recruitment exercise in 1993, there was only limited response and none of the applicants was found suitable. In 1994, one applicant was selected, but he subsequently declined the offer for personal reasons. The unfavourable response might be attributed to the nature of the job, the lack of promotion prospects, and possibly the previously stated preference for relevant experience in drug-related field. To widen the net of potential candidates, the Department of Health had advised SARDA not to include drug-related experience as a criterion in future recruitment exercises. As regards the remuneration package for the post, the Administration confirmed that while SARDA would reimburse the Government for the full staff costs (including on-costs) for the government secondee, the fringe benefits to be offered to the recruit would not be superior to those of the civil service. AD of H quoted as an illustration that the advertised package in the 1994 recruitment exercise did not include housing allowance.
3. On the reasons why recruitment was not conducted in 1995 and 1996, AD of H advised that in the past two years, a number of initiatives and new programmes of SARDA were in the critical stage of development. It was therefore necessary to maintain continuity of experience in the organization. SARDA now planned to conduct a recruitment exercise with a view to appointing its new Executive Director in mid-1997, but in view of the lead time required for recruitment procedures, the supernumerary post should be retained beyond 1 April 1997.
4. As regards whether any existing staff in SARDA could be groomed to take up the post, AD of H advised that the Executive Director post was administrative in nature, and the three service units were headed by professional staff, while the incumbent of the head of the Administration Department was presently too junior to be qualified for promotion.
5. The item was voted on and endorsed.
Proposed deletion of eight permanent directorate posts on the Hong Kong Monetary Authority as they are no longer required
6. A member expressed reservations that civil servants were allowed a long period to opt between remaining on civil service terms or transfer to employment terms of the new organisation when a former government department was transformed to statutory or autonomous organisation. To update members on the transitional arrangements, the Head (Administration) of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (H/A of HKMA) advised that of the original 195 secondees to HKMA, 98 opted for the HKMA terms, 85 remained on civil service establishment and 22 retired or left the service.
7. On the retention of directorate posts to provide for promotion of officers who opted to remain as civil servants, a member queried why a dual system would need to be maintained. In reply, H/A of HKMA advised that seven such posts were retained for the 67 Bank Examiners Grade staff who elected to stay on civil service terms. When HKMA terms were offered to staff in 1993, these officers had been assured of equal promotion opportunities irrespective of their option. He clarified that these posts existed in the original establishment of the grade and would remain frozen until such time an officer was found suitable to fill the vacancy. As no double posts were created for the same operational job, this would not result in waste of resources. Since salaries and on-costs of civil servants seconded to the HKMA were reimbursed by HKMA to General Revenue, the arrangement would not entail additional financial implications for the Government.
8. On the terms of employment of the HKMA, H/A of HKMA advised that the terms were approved by the Financial Secretary upon the advice of the Exchange Fund Advisory Committee (EFAC). Independent annual reviews were conducted on the pay level and pay trend in the private sector to benchmark the pay of HKMA staff. As regards the transparency of the remuneration package of senior staff of HKMA, he advised that a broad banding indication was already given in the annual report of HKMA. H/A of HKMA noted some members request for greater transparency of the HKMA remuneration package and the operation of the HKMA and EFAC.
9. The item was voted on and endorsed.
Proposed creation of a permanent post of Chief Building Services Engineer (D1) to head a second Building Services (New Works) Section in the Housing Department
10. On the justification for the post, the Senior Assistant Director of Housing (SAD/H) advised that the planning and design work to increase the annual production targets from 35,000 to 98,000 flats in 2000-2001 was now in full swing. At present, the Government was undertaking about 170 projects. In view of the significant increase in work, the Housing Department had to engage consultants to take up about 50-60 projects in the coming year. An additional directorate officer was therefore necessary to cope with the increased demand for professional input and direction in these projects.
11. In reply to a member, SAD/H clarified that pilot projects of automated refuse collection system and improvement of energy efficiency could only be carried out in new housing estates specially designed for the purpose. The research and evaluation of such undertakings required the technological expertise of senior and experienced building services staff, and the close supervision of the Chief Engineer.
12. Concerning the quality of housing units of the Private Sector Participation Scheme, a member asked whether the proposed post would improve supervision of such schemes to enhance the quality of flats under this scheme. In response, SAD/H advised that improvements could only be achieved with the joint efforts of the developers/contractors and government departments involved in the project. As far as the Building Services Section of the Housing Department was concerned, enhanced services in the form of technical advice on the building services would be provided for these projects.
13. A member questioned the practice of creating a Personal Secretary post in parallel with the creation of a directorate post, and asked the Department if the secretarial work could be shared among existing staff. In reply, SAD/H advised that additional secretarial post was required only if there was a functional need. He agreed to review the feasibility of staff re-deployment in this respect.
14. The item was voted on and endorsed.
(a) upgrading the post of Controller, Student Financial Assistance Agency from Principal Executive Officer (D1) to Senior Principal Executive Officer (D2) with effect from 1 December 1996 to meet the increased responsibilities and complexities of the post ; and
(b) increase of the permanent establishment ceilings of the Student Financial Assistance Agency
15. Some members questioned the justifications for upgrading the post from D1 to D2 level, as an increase in workload should call for additional support at operational level rather than upgrading the post to a more senior rank. In response, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower explained that since the establishment of the Student Financial Assistance Agency (SFAA) in 1990, the work of the agency had increased substantially both in volume and in complexity. While additional staff would be provided to cope with the increased work, the Controller, SFAA also had to undertake a higher level of responsibilities especially in the review of the various student financial assistance schemes and the introduction of management initiatives. In the deliberation of policy changes to meet changing needs, the Government would have to rely on the analyses carried out by SFAA based on the applications received and the feedback on public opinion directed at the agency and its advisory committee, the Joint Committee on Student Finance, and in this aspect, the Controller had to assist in evaluating the operational, financial and policy implications on options available. The Controller of SFAA added that there was also a need to maintain relativity with other comparable agencies which were headed by officers at D2 level or above.
16. Responding to some members request for more objective yardsticks for determining the ranking of directorate posts, the Deputy Secretary for the Civil Service advised that there were no formal ranking criteria for directorate level post; indeed it would be difficult to devise a standard formula which could be applied to all directorate posts. The Government would assess each request on its merits, taking into account the level of responsibility, the political sensitivity and the complexity of the job. It was on the basis of these considerations that the Government supported the proposed upgrading in this case.
17. On the improvements to performance targets, the Controller, SFAA advised that the processing time for applications from current students had recently been reduced from four to three months, and appeals would be handled within three months. Other improvements would include a 24-hour enquiry service, and a streamlined vetting procedure to deal with first-time and subsequent applications following agreement with the Director of Audit. In reply to a member, he advised that no complaints on delays had been received this year, as the tertiary education institutions had introduced arrangements to defer the payment due dates of tuition fees and some institutions also granted bridging interest-free loans to students pending SFAA approval of applications.
18. The item was voted on and endorsed.
Proposed transfer of one permanent post of Administrative Officer Staff Grade C (D2) and 24 non-directorate posts from the Information Co-ordinators Office under Offices of the Chief Secretary and the Financial Secretary to the Information Services Department with effect from 1 April 1997
19. Some members queried the rationale of placing the formulation of public relation (PR) strategy under the executive department. In reply, the Deputy Director of Information Services (DD/IS) advised that in recent years, there was an increasing need for a co-ordinated approach in the Governments PR service, and the proposed amalgamation of the Information Co-Ordinators (IC) Office with the Information Services Department (ISD) was only to streamline the operation. At the request of a member, he undertook to provide further information in relation to the problems encountered under the existing arrangement.
20. Some members were of the view that the post title and perhaps the ranking of IC should be changed after the amalgamation. As to what residual function would be performed by the ICs Office following its taking over by the ISD, DD/IS advised that the Government had yet to map out its plan after 1997. Meanwhile, the IC would continue to serve as Press Secretary to the Governor, and there was no overlapping of duties with ISD. On a members suggestion to departmentalise the post of Press Secretary to the Chief Secretary and the Financial Secretary, DD/IS explained that ISD currently had a shortage of senior departmental staff as a result of the retirement of a number of directorate officers. The post would therefore have to be filled by an Administrative Officer Staff Grade C. The Government would review the staffing situation in due course.
21. In reply to a member, DD/IS confirmed that the proposal did not involve any change to the non-directorate establishment of the departments concerned.
22. The item was voted on and endorsed.
23. The Committee was adjourned at 10:20 am.
Legislative Council Secretariat
14 November 1996
Last Updated on 12 August 1999