Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. ESC 11
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref : CB1/F/3/2

Establishment Subcommittee of the
Provisional Legislative Council

Minutes of the meeting held at the Legislative Council Chamber on Tuesday, 2 September 1997,
at 10:45 am

Members present:

Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong (Chairman)
Hon NG Leung-sing (Deputy Chairman)
Hon WONG Siu-yee
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon Henry WU
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon TSANG Yok-sing
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Hon Kennedy WONG Ying-ho
Dr Hon Charles YEUNG Chun-kam
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon IP Kwok-him
Hon CHENG Yiu-tong

Members absent :

Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, JP
Dr Hon David LI Kwok-po, JP
Hon Mrs Peggy LAM, JP
Hon Henry TANG Ying-yen, JP
Hon HUI Yin-fat, JP
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
Hon Paul CHENG Ming-fun, JP
Hon Timothy FOK Tsun-ting
Hon CHOY So-yuk

Public officers attending :

Mrs Carrie LAM, JP
Deputy Secretary for the Treasury

Deputy Secretary for the Civil Service

Mr Patrick W M CHIM
Principal Assistant Secretary for the Treasury

Chief Property Services Manager, Architectural Services Department

Mr Mark M P SIU
Departmental Secretary, Architectural Services Department

Mr Joshua C K LAW, JP
Private Secretary to Chief Executive

Press Secretary to Chief Executive

Deputy Secretary for Works

Director of Electrical and Mechanical Services

Trading Services Manager, Electrical and Mechanical Services Trading Fund

Clerk in attendance :

Mrs Vivian KAM
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)5

Staff in attendance :

Ms Pauline NG
Assistant Secretary General 1

Ms Anita SIT
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)8

EC(97-98)17Proposed delegation of authority to Controlling Officers to create supernumerary posts, to be held against permanent posts of a lower pay scale, to enable a maximum of 12 staff of the Architectural Services Department, who have become surplus to requirement following the revamping of the Military Group of the department, to take up alternative employment within the Civil Service

In response to members ' questions on the arrangements for the redundant staff in the Military Group of the Architectural Services Department, the Deputy Secretary for the Civil Service (DS/CS) provided the following explanations -

  1. The proposed arrangement, whereby redundant staff who could not find alternative employment in the civil service with the same or higher pay scales could take up posts of lower pay scales while retaining their current salaries and non-job related benefits, was consistent with the standard arrangements in past redundancy exercises. The Administration would take steps to enable redundant staff to take up other civil service posts as far as possible and ensure that undue staff relations problems would not arise in the receiving departments or grades.

  2. Non-job related benefits were those not peculiar to particular posts such as medical and dental benefits, leave, education and passages allowances etc., whereas job related benefits were applicable only to particular posts, such as specific overtime rates, allowances for specified uniform etc. Staff well understood the impracticability for them to retain job related benefits when transferring to other posts to which those benefits did not apply.

  3. The prospect for redundant staff to secure alternative employment of a higher pay scale would depend mainly on the compatibility and relevance of the experience gained from their current posts with those of the available posts.

  4. Redundant staff who declined to take up alternative employment, or who had taken up alternative employment but reverted to their original ranks within the one-year trial period, could choose to retire on abolition-of-office terms.

2. The item was voted on and endorsed.

EC(97-98)18 Proposed, in the context of setting up the new Chief Executive ' s Office -

(a) non-civil service appointment of a Senior Special Assistant to the Chief Executive at the equivalent of D2, with effect from 1 September 1997 until the end of tenure of service of the incumbent Chief Executive, in the Chief Executive ' s Office; and

(b) making permanent the post of Assistant Director of Information Services (D2) in the Information Services Department with effect from 12 September 1997 to assist in the formulation of public relations strategies for the Chief Executive

3. Members noted the need for the Chief Executive (CE) to employ persons outside the civil service to provide him with personal support services. Members also noted that a Senior Special Assistant (SSA), ranked at D2, a Special Assistant (at equivalent of MPS 45-49), a Personal Assistant (at equivalent of MPS 30-33) and a Personal Chauffeur (at equivalent of MPS 12), would be engaged by non-civil service appointments in the CE ' s Office until the end of the tenure of the incumbent CE. Members raised questions on the circumstances where non-civil service appointments applied, e.g. in the case of the previous Governor, and why such persons could not occupy civil service posts.

4. In response, DS/CS explained that non-civil service appointments were not uncommon in the civil service. There was a long-standing mechanism to bring in persons who possessed expertise not available in the civil service to provide specific services or perform specific functions. Examples of such appointments included the Chairman of the Public Service Commission, resident site staff in public works projects and the consultants and researchers in the Central Policy Unit. The Deputy Secretary for the Treasury stressed that the nature and conditions of these appointments were similar to those under the present proposal. The practice of putting forward proposals for non-civil service appointments of directorate equivalent rank exceeding 12 months only commenced in 1994, following a decision of the Finance Committee to expand the ambit of the Establishment Subcommittee to cover such proposals. At a member ' s request, the Administration agreed to provide further information on non-civil service appointments in Government over the past few years.Admin

5. Referring to the establishment in the former Governor ' s Office, PS to CE confirmed that two special assistants from the United Kingdom were engaged during the tenure of the former Governor. DS/CS said that these two special assistants with relevant civil service experience from the United Kingdom were employed in the civil service on secondment terms of appointment. Such arrangements were used in such cases to facilitate the continuation of pension eligibility when such officers subsequently returned to the UK upon the expiry of their service in Hong Kong. The situation in the present proposal was therefore different and non-civil service appointments were more appropriate. By way of non-civil service appointments, the appointees could not be transferred or promoted to civil service posts; likewise, civil servants could not fill these positions. PS to CE added that the services of the three Assistants and the Personal Chauffeur of CE would only be required during the tenure of the incumbent CE and their appointments would not affect the promotion prospects of staff members in the civil service.

6. Referring to the proposed non-civil service appointments, a member sought clarification on the appointees ' obligation to abide by civil service rules and regulations, such as the Official Secrets Acts. He also questioned the rationale for not providing specific civil service posts for such appointments which would ensure that there was no ambiguity over the appointees ' obligations. DS/CS and PS to CE confirmed that these appointees were appointed on local agreement terms and were subject to all civil service rules and regulations as applied to such appointments; the present proposal aimed at seeking the necessary funds. The terms of employment would be clearly laid down in the agreements, including the appointees ' obligation to abide by all civil service rules and regulations.

7. As regards the remuneration for the appointees, PS to CE advised that in determining the level of remuneration, factors such as the duties and responsibilities of the positions concerned, the appointees ' background and previous working experience had been taken into consideration. The end-of-contract gratuity at 25% of the total salaries received would only be granted at the satisfactory completion of the contract. DS/CS supplemented that although present practice in the civil service allowed variation in the level of gratuities for different appointments, 25% gratuity level was considered appropriate in the present case.

8. In response to a member, PS to CE confirmed that the SSA would be required to assist the CE by researching into specific issues of concern and provide supplementary personal assistance to the CE in addition to the general support from departments and Bureaux. In terms of line of command, PS to CE was the administrative head of the CE ' s Office and the Controlling Officer of the Office ' s finance.

9. Referring to conversion of the supernumerary post of Deputy Press Secretary (DPS) to permanent establishment, a member questioned the need for the Press Secretary, a D3 officer, to be underpinned by a permanent D2 Deputy post in such a small office. The Press Secretary to CE (Press Secretary) explained that since the creation of the temporary DPS post in March 1997, the workload and complexity of public relations work in the CE ' s Office had confirmed that both posts were required in providing an effective service. Experience indicated that apart from being responsible for the strategic planning of CE ' s public relations matters, the Press Secretary was required to accompany the CE in attending public functions and media interviews. During the absence of the Press Secretary, an officer at a relatively senior level would have to handle enquiries and matters which were often highly sensitive and complicated in nature and decide whether such matters required the immediate attention of senior officials in the Government. Pitching the DPS post at D2 level was therefore appropriate.

10. As to whether the proposed staffing support was similar to that given to the former Governor, the Press Secretary pointed out that during the several months before the Handover, the former Governor was supported by an Information Co-ordinator (D4), an Assistant Director of Information Services (D2), one Chief Information Officer (MPS 45-49) and one Senior Information Officer (MPS 34-39). As for the CE ' s Office, the proposed staffing complement for public relations work comprised one D3 officer, one D2 officer and one Principal Information Officer (MPS 40-44). The Press Secretary stressed that there could not be any direct comparison between the two as the intensity and aspects of public relations activities were different.

11. Regarding the different dates for the proposed posts, PS to CE explained that the appointment of SSA would take retrospective effect from 1 September 1997 as the service contract of the incumbent SSA, the funding of which was approved in a previous proposal to the Finance Committee, lasted up to 31 August 1997. Since no meeting of the Establishment Subcommittee had been scheduled prior to 1 September 1997, this was the earliest opportunity to put the staffing proposal to the Subcommittee for endorsement. The effective date of the creation of the DPS post would be 12 September 1997 to tie in with the expiry of the existing supernumerary post.

12. The item was voted on and endorsed.

EC(97-98)19Proposed -

(a) redeployment of two posts of Government Electrical and Mechanical Engineer (D2), one post of Chief Electrical and Mechanical Engineer (D1), one post of Chief Electronics Engineer (D1) and one post of Chief Building Services Engineer (D1); and

(b) conversion of two posts of Chief Electrical and Mechanical Engineer (D1), two posts of Chief Electronics Engineer (D1) and one post of Chief Building Services Engineer (D1) to multi-disciplinary ones

in the Electrical and Mechanical Services Trading Fund to further improve and strengthen the services provided to clients

13. On the major features and the rationale for the organisational changes of the Electrical and Mechanical Services Trading Fund (EMSTF), the Director of Electrical and Mechanical Services (DEMS) advised that the traditional structure of the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) placed heavy emphasis on functional divisions, which was no longer appropriate when the department changed to trading fund operations. Unlike the vote funding operation era when EMSD planned and undertook all maintenance works for Government departments, EMSTF needed to change to a customer oriented organisation that could respond promptly to customers ' requirements and expectations. Regionalisation of operations and the reconstitution of operational units to multi-disciplinary teams, which were envisaged when the EMSTF commenced operation, were the main themes of the structural changes and would meet the objectives of enhancing the department ' s flexibility and responsiveness.

14. As to how the organisational changes would prepare the EMSTF for market competition after the three-year ' tied ' period, the Deputy Secretary for Works (DS/W) and DEMS advised that the organisational changes would result in real savings in that better co-ordination among different disciplines would make possible fewer service visits and save travelling time. These improvements were conducive to the trading fund ' s commercial viability and competitiveness.

15. A member expressed concern on the pressure for EMSTF to increase productivity and simplify its structure in order to sustain its business viability after the three-year ' tied ' period when customers would be free to choose their service providers by phases. DS/W and DEMS responded that the present proposal did not seek to expand the directorate structure of the EMSTF but to rationalise the structure to enhance the department ' s operational flexibility and market responsiveness. Retention of the directorate posts was necessary to meet the trading fund ' s existing and anticipated responsibilities. They assured that the establishment at senior levels would be monitored carefully to avoid a top-heavy structure. On the other hand, plans were in place to ensure that surplus staff resulting from productivity improvement could be effectively redeployed or leave the services through natural wastage. In the short term, the EMSTF would probably take on new staff only on contract terms to enable better control of staff costs although no such contract staff had been taken on since the establishment of the EMSTF in August 1996.

16. Addressing a member ' s concern about the impact of regionalisation on staff, the Trading Services Manager/EMSTF advised that redeployment of staff from the existing two central depots to regional offices had no significant impact on staff, as staff ' s residential locations had been taken into consideration in the redeployment process. As regards workload, he advised that staff ' s actual working time might increase as a result of a reduction in travelling time for service visits. He also confirmed that concerned staff and staff associations had been consulted extensively on the proposals and the responses were generally favourable.

17. In reply to a member, DEMS advised that the financial status of the trading fund was sound and the financial position up to end of March 1997 would be detailed in the EMSTF annual report to be tabled at a Provisional Legislative Council meeting in October 1997.

18. The item was voted on and endorsed.

Any other business

Late membership

19. The Chairman informed members that Mr James TIEN Pei-chun could not send in his notification to join the Subcommittee before the deadline of 30 July 1997 as he was absent from Hong Kong during the notification period. In accordance with paragraph 3 of the Establishment Subcommittee Procedure, he had accepted Mr TIEN ' s request submitted after the deadline to join the Subcommittee.

20. The Subcommittee was adjourned at 12:10 pm.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
15 September 1997