LegCo Paper No. ESC 22/96-97
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB1/F/3/2

Establishment Subcommittee

Minutes of the proceedings of the meeting
held on Thursday, 16 January 1997
at 10:45 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 Fred LI Wah-ming
    Hon CHAN Wing-chan
    Hon Paul CHENG Ming-fun
    Hon CHENG Yiu-tong
    Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
Members absent :
    Dr Hon David K P LI, OBE, LLD (Cantab), JP
    Hon SZETO Wah
    Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, OBE, JP
    Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing
    Hon Henry TANG Ying-yen
    Dr Hon Samuel WONG Ping-wai, OBE, FEng, JP
    Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong
    Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, OBE, JP
    Hon IP Kwok-him
    Hon LAW Chi-kwong
    Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
    Hon Margaret NG
    Hon Mrs Elizabeth WONG, CBE, ISO, JP
Public officers attending :
    Mr Kevin HO
    JP Deputy Secretary for the Treasury
    Deputy Secretary for the Civil Service
    Mr Stephen WONG
    Deputy Solicitor General
    Mr Peter CHEUNG
    JP Chambers Manager, Legal Department
    JP Director of Housing
    Mrs Clarie LO
    Ex-Deputy Director of Housing
    Mr Y L CHAN
    OBE, JP Deputy Ombudsman
    Miss Viola CHAN
    Principal Executive Officer, Office of The Ombudsman
    Ms Michelle LI
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower
    JP Secretary-General, University Grants Committee
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 creation of a supernumerary post of Deputy Principal Crown Counsel (DL2) in the Legal Policy Division of the Legal Department with effect from 1 March 1997 for three years to head a new Basic Law Unit

Members noted that the proposed Deputy Principal Crown Counsel (DPCC) post had been discussed previously at the Subcommittee meeting in June 1996 but withdrawn by the Administration in view of members' reservations on the permanent need for the post. The Administration had now modified the proposal and the present paper sought members' agreement to a supernumerary DPCC post for a period of three years.

2. A member enquired about the need for the proposed post to be retained up to the year 2000, since most of the adaptation of law programme and Basic Law promotional activities should have been completed after the transfer of sovereignty. In response, the Deputy Solicitor General (DSG) advised that there would be a continuing need for legal advice to be given to the Government in relation to constitutional issues including the Basic Law, particularly in the early years of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. It would be difficult to quantify the anticipated workload as legal advice was demand led. However, given the complexity of the subject, it was envisaged that extensive research on common law and China Law would be required. In the absence of precedents and previous rulings, it would be necessary to have a senior officer at DPCC level to ensure that quality advice would be given. To effectively allow for the proper nurturing of expertise and experience in this area, the post would at least be required for a period of three years. The Government would review the continued need of the post after two years.

3. In reply to a member, DSG advised that though no specific mechanism existed at present for counsel in the Legal Department to regularly exchange views with their Chinese counterparts on Chinese law and the Basic Law, there were informal channels (such as ad hoc visits and seminars) through which counsel were able to acquire a comprehensive perception of those laws. In addition there were seminars and visits organised with the local tertiary educational institutions and Chinese officials, and periodicals and publications from China were provided for counsel's reference.

4. As regards whether Legal Department's advice in respect of the Basic Law had ever been tested, DSG advised that his department only offered professional opinion to the Hong Kong Government and that it was the policy secretary concerned who took decisions using the advice as appropriate. Whilst some of the issues were still under discussion at the policy branch level, there had been test cases such as the establishment of the Court of Final Appeal.

5. The item was voted on and endorsed.


Proposed creation of three permanent posts of one Deputy Director of Housing (D4), one Deputy Director of Accounting Services (D3) and one Principal Executive Officer (D1) offset by the deletion of a permanent post of Assistant Director of Accounting Services (D2) to strengthen the senior directorate structure of the Housing Department

6. Dr Anthony CHEUNG Bing-leung declared an interest as a member of the Housing Authority.

7. At the invitation of the Chairman, the Director of Housing (D of H) briefed members on the background and justification for the proposed directorate posts. He advised that the range of responsibilities and scope of activities of the Department had expanded rapidly in line with the physical growth of estates under management, the rising community expectations for better quality services, and the demand for more rental and home ownership flats. To meet such demands, a number of operational and organisational reforms were set in train, and the senior directorate of the Department required strengthening to streamline operations and to steer the reforms. Given the increased complexity and magnitude of responsibilities of the existing Deputy Director/Housing Management and Works (DD/HMW) (D4), it would be necessary to split the DD/HMW post into two, to be re-designated as DD/HM to look after estate management and housing administration, and DD/W to take care of new works, maintenance and construction services. Moreover, the Department had recently embarked on the Management Enhancement Programme (MEP), as detailed in Enclosure 3 to the discussion paper, to change the staff culture and enhance the overall performance of the Department. A permanent Principal Executive Officer (PEO) (D1) post would be required to assist the directorate in managing the MEP. Furthermore, to reflect the enhanced role and responsibilities of the Assistant Director/Finance (AD/F) (D2) who was required to manage a combined annual revenue and expenditure of around $60 billion with an annual turnover of over $100 billion, it was proposed that the post should be upgraded to Deputy Director/Finance (D3). The resultant directorate hierarchy proposed for the Housing Department would consist of one D7, two D4, six D3 and 14 D2 posts.

8. While members were generally in support of the Housing Department reforms and had no objection to the upgrading of the AD/F post to D3, they expressed serious reservations on the need for the additional D4 and D1 posts. Members were of the view that while reforms and enhancement programmes would entail additional work to the senior directorate, there might not be a substantial, long-term increase in workload of the Housing Department, especially since an increasing number of projects were contracted out. In this connection, they asked about the specific improvements targets of the reforms and directorate re-structuring.

9. In response, D of H advised that with a large and complex organisation comprising some 15,000 staff, management reforms would be a complicated task requiring high level attention and monitoring. A number of important initiatives were being introduced, such as the establishment of Estate Management Advisory Committees in public rental housing estates, pilot schemes for privatisation of estate management, enhanced minor maintenance system to rental estates and the Review of Home Ownership Scheme. There were also plans to re-structure the estate management offices by integrating the estate management and maintenance functions and placing them under the control of the individual estate Housing Manager. The objective of these management initiatives and streamlined structure was to enhance the quality of service in housing administration and estate management.

10. As regards the annual housing production targets, D of H advised that the present target was to increase the number of units from 35,000 to 100,000 by the year 2001. To speed up the delivery of housing units, the Housing Authority would take over the infrastructural development work of their housing projects where the Administration was unable to start for one reason or another. In this respect, the Department would also strengthen the project management and cost control to ensure increased output in a cost-effective manner.

11. In view of the heavy commitments to the implementation of these reforms and the large span of control under the existing DD/HMW now overseeing four operational branches covering new development, maintenance and construction services, housing administration and estate management, D of H advised that it would be necessary to have an additional DD to share out these duties. The post would be filled by a suitable officer from the Architect or Engineer grade. However, his longer term aim was to have an open directorate.

12. Noting that the DD/Administration (DD/A) would no longer be required to supervise the finance functions of the Department after re-structuring, a member queried the need for an additional D1 post to support the DD/A in the implementation of the MEP. In reply, D of H and the Ex-Deputy Director of Housing clarified that previously the DD/A had been overloaded and the proposed re-structuring would enable the DD/A to effectively monitor the implementation of the MEP in addition to his other responsibilities in areas of human resource management and information technology development. Given the size and coverage of the MEP which included corporate strategies, service delivery and standards, corporate culture and communications, etc., a D1 post would be required to support the DD/A in reviewing the strategies and co-ordinating the MEP implementation.

13. After discussion, several members maintained the view that the workload in relation to the implementation of reforms and MEP would be temporary in nature, and suggested the Administration to consider creating the D4 and D1 posts on a supernumerary basis. Having considered members' comments and the time required for the business re-engineering process in the Housing Department, the Deputy Secretary for the Treasury modified the proposal as follows:

  1. create one supernumerary post of Deputy Director of Housing (D4) up to 31 March 2000 to effect the splitting of the existing Deputy Director/Housing Management and Works post (D4) into Deputy Director/Housing Management and Deputy Director/Works to strengthen the senior management of the Department;
  2. create one supernumerary post of Principal Executive Officer (D1) up to 31 March 2000 to provide directorate support for the implementation of the Management Enhancement Programme; and
  3. upgrade the existing post of Assistant Director/Finance (D2) to the rank of Deputy Director/Finance (D3) to reflect the enhanced role and responsibilities of the post.

14. With the agreement of members, the Chairman put the revised proposal to vote. The revised proposal was endorsed.


Proposed creation of a permanent post of Assistant Ombudsman (D2) to head a new Investigation Division upon the re-organisation of the Office of The Ombudsman

15. Some members expressed concern about the long time taken in processing complaints received by the Office of the Ombudsman. They asked how the proposed creation of the additional D2 post could help expedite the processing of complaints.

16. In response, the Deputy Ombudsman (DO) advised that there had been an upsurge in the number of complaints and enquiries since 1994-95, and to cope with the huge workload, the establishment of the Ombudsman's Office had been increased from 26 in 1993-94 to 81 in 1996-97 and the number of investigation/screening teams increased from four to seven. As a result, the span of control had become too extensive for one Assistant Ombudsman to cope with effectively. While temporary directorate re-deployment had been made to tide over the difficult period of immense workload, the Ombudsman considered that the directorate required strengthening in the long term to improve the efficiency of the Office. An additional Assistant Ombudsman would not only enlarge the complaint handling capacity but would also relieve the Deputy Ombudsman from the daily case investigation work so that the latter could concentrate on the planning and development of the Office, the investigation of complex complaint cases, and direct investigations.

17. On the measures taken to reduce the processing time of complaints, DO advised that his staff had been making a particular effort to clear the backlog. With streamlined procedures and the introduction of a case management system, he envisaged that all complaints filed in 1996 requiring investigation could be completed early this year. A performance pledge was under preparation to further enhance the service of the Office. The Chairman suggested that issues concerning the operation of the Ombudsman's Office could be followed up by the relevant LegCo Panel.xx

18. The item was voted on and endorsed.


Proposed creation of a permanent post of Administrative Officer Staff Grade C (D2) in the Secretariat of the University Grants Committee with effect from 1 March 1997 to provide staffing support to cope with the increase in complexity and volume of work at the Deputy Secretary General level and increase of the permanent establishment ceiling

19. The item was voted on and endorsed.


Proposed changes to the existing Establishment Subcommittee procedures

20. The Chairman advised that the Establishment Subcommittee (ESC) could determine its own practices and procedures subject to the provisions in the Standing Orders and the endorsement of the Finance Committee (FC). The proposed changes in the present paper were mainly to make the ESC Procedures consistent with the provisions in the Standing Orders and the FC Procedures.

21. With regard to the adjournment of proceedings, the Chairman advised that the FC had discussed the application of Standing Order (SO) 30 to its proceedings when endorsing the revised FC Procedures on 29 November 1996. For consistency with the FC practices, he suggested that the ESC Chairman would also be allowed to use his discretion to apply SO 30, including SO 30(1), to ESC proceedings. Subject to members' agreement, paragraph 29 of the ESC Procedures would be amended to this effect.

22. The revised ESC Procedures together with the proposed amendment to paragraph 29 were voted on and endorsed.

23. The Committee was adjourned at 12:20 p.m.

Legislative Council Secretariat

12 February 1997

Last Updated on 12 August 1999