LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 225/96-97
(The minutes have been seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB2/PL/PS/1

LegCo Panel on Public Service

Minutes of meeting held on Monday, 7 October 1996 at 11:00 a.m.
in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building

Members Present :

    Hon IP Kwok-him(Chairman)
    Hon LEE Kai-ming (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP
    Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing
    Hon CHAN Wing-chan
    Hon Mrs Elizabeth WONG, CBE, ISO, JP

Members Attending :

    Hon Fred LI Wah-ming

Members Absent :

    Hon Allen LEE Peng-fei, CBE, JP *
    Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong *
    Hon Michael HO Mun-ka *
    Hon LEE Cheuk-yan *
    Hon CHENG Yiu-tong *
    Dr Hon Anthony CHEUNG Bing-leung *
    Hon David CHU Yu-lin *
    Dr Hon LAW Cheung-kwok *

Public Officers Attending :

Secretary for the Civil Service
Ms Sandra LEE
Deputy Secretary (Civil Service) 1
Deputy Secretary (Civil Service) 2 (Atg)
Ms Grace LUI
Deputy Secretary (Civil Service) 3 (Atg)
Mrs Marion LAI
Commissioner for Official Languages
Mrs Mary SZETO
Civil Service Training and Development Institute

Clerk in Attendance :

Mrs Sharon TONG
Chief Assistant Secretary (2)1

Staff in Attendance :

Mrs Justina LAM
Assistant Secretary General 2
Mr Paul WOO
Senior Assistant Secretary (2)5

Briefing by the Secretary for Civil Service on the Governor’s Policy Address

Mr W K LAM briefed members on the policy commitments of the Civil Service Branch. (A booklet on Policy Commitments of the Civil Service Branch for 1996-97 has been circulated to members). The Administration then responded to members’ questions as follows:

Staff Wastage and Succession Planning

(a) The government aimed at preserving a stable and efficient civil service in the run-up to the sovereignty handover. In 1995-96, the overall wastage rate in the civil service was at a seven-year low of 4.4%. Owing to the age factor, the wastage rate for directorate level officers stood at a relatively higher rate of 8.9%. Yet the figure was still the lowest in the past few years. The anticipated wastage rate for directorate grade officers for the year up to mid 1997 was anticipated to be below 10%. In addition, only 23% of officers at directorate levels were within the retirement age zone. The Civil Service Branch (CSB) worked closely with Heads of Departments on staff succession planning. The Administration was confident that maximum efficiency and continuity of the civil service could be maintained during the transition to 1997 and beyond.

Improving Management Efficency and Standards of Service

(b) The CSB was reviewing the core competencies appraisal system recently introduced for the Administrative Service grade. This appraisal system was aimed at improving the standard of performance assessment through the use of a modified appraisal form designed to provide an objective account on the appraisee’s major strengths and weaknesses. The results had proved to be successful. Other departments in the civil service would be encouraged to adopt the system. Suitable training would be provided for reporting officers to promote impartial reporting and to increase transparency.

(c) Ability had always been, and would continue to be, of paramount importance in consideration of an officer’s suitability for promotion. Where candidates’ performance, potential and capabilities were equal, experience would be taken into account. The Administration would maintain that promotion should be based on merits and a balanced assessment of all the relevant factors should be made in promotion exercises.

(d) The government was commissioning private consultants to promote modern human resources management practices in areas such as training, internal communication, performance management and career development. Reviews in eight selected departments had been completed and reviews in another four departments were underway. Resources allocated for a department were in the region of $200 000 to $300 000 and the overall budget for this project for the current year was $5 million. The Administration would report on progress in future meetings.

(e) The purpose of organising seminars for staff on the prevention of sexual harassment in the civil service was to keep civil servants in tune with the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace, which had been a management issue of general interest. There had not been an actual problem in the civil service.

Maintaining a Quality Civil Service

(f) The Administration was still examining different options to provide continuity of authority for the appointment, removal and discipline of civil servants. This was necessary as the Colonial Regulations would lapse on 30 June 1997. The views of the Central Consultative Councils would be sought. If new legislation was considered necessary, the Administration would make proposals to the Legislative Council as early as possible, probably by the end of the year.

(g) As part of an overall programme to improve the use of human resources, a multi-skilling support service would be developed through a merging of the traditional duties between the secretarial and clerical grades. This new initiative, which was in line with modern office practices, was also intended to reduce work monotony. A pilot study would be conducted in the Education Department. Staff consultation had also begun.

Preparing for the Transition

(h) The Administration would continue to take measures to achieve greater openness and accountability in the government and to ensure that the civil service remained politically neutral. The professionalism and credibility of the civil service was demonstrated by their faithful execution of the policies of the government of the day, in other words, the existing Hong Kong Government up to 30 June 1997, and after then, the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR). Political neutrality of the civil service and the stance of the civil service as regards the Provisional Legislature should be viewed in this perspective. The question of dual loyalty would not arise provided the civil service was unswerving in discharging its designated role. Moreover, according to the Foreign Ministers of both the UK and China, there would only be one Legislature in Hong Kong, namely the existing Legislative Council, before 1 July 1997. The Administration was confident that the civil service could effectively cope with the transition.

(i) The Administration would provide the necessary support and assistance to the future Chief Executive (CE) of the SAR. Detailed arrangements would have to be worked out with the CE after the latter was elected.

(j) To enhance understanding and co-operation with the Chinese side, a second round of 11 informal get-togethers would be organised shortly between senior civil servants and Chinese officials. More than 100 officers at Deputy Secretary and Deputy Director levels or above, i.e. at D3 to D5 levels, were expected to take part in these experience sharing sessions.

(k) Local political leaders, academics and businessmen with experience of China would be invited as guest speakers at seminars to be attended by senior civil servants to improve their understanding of China. Other activities included the developing of more training courses in China Studies with local and Chinese universities, familiarisation visits to China, issuing of self-learning packages on China Studies and Putonghua and expanding the collection of China Studies materials for reference by civil servants.

Promotion of a Wider Use of Chinese in Official Business

(l) The Administration was facilitating the wider use of Chinese in order to achieve better communication with the public and enhance operational transparency. Measures taken in this respect included the provision of a comprehensive database on the use of Chinese and Chinese word processing facilities, the publication of a reference booklet on format and samples of Chinese official writing and other reference materials. Two telephone enquiry hotlines would soon be established in the Official Languages Agency to provide assistance to officers in drafting official communications in Chinese.

(m) Departments would normally answer in the same language as the incoming correspondence. The Administration agreed to follow-up with the Environmental Protection Department and the Lands Department which, according to Mr Fred LI Wah-ming, had given written replies in English to enquiries in Chinese.


Other Issues

(n) As to the reasons for the increase in government expenditure on civil service pay and benefits, which nearly doubled from $6.6 billion for 1991-92 to $13.1 billion for 1996-97, against a reduction of about 10 000 in the absolute number of civil servants during the same period, the Administration would advise in writing after the meeting. The Administration emphasized that the long term goal of the government was to improve the efficiency and productivity of the civil service. The Administration had closely scrutinized requests for additional resources.


2. Members agreed to discuss the following in future meetings

  1. Regulations on the appointment, removal and discipline of civil servants after 1997 (Para. 1(f) above); and
  2. Expenditure on civil service pay and benefits (Para. 1 (n) above)

3. The meeting ended at 12:00 noon.

LegCo Secretariat
18 October 1996

* -- Other Commitments

Last Updated on 21 August 1998