Information Note for the
Provisional Legislative Council Panel on Public Service
Meeting on 23 February 1998

Mechanism to deal with Misconduct by Civil Servants


To inform Members of the current position of misconduct cases of civil servants, and the mechanism in place to deal with such cases.

Guiding Principle

2. Civil servants are required to use their best efforts to promote the interests of the government. They should be honest and impartial in their dealings with members of the public, and should not -

  1. put themselves in a position or take part in activities where their private interests may conflict with their official duties or bring the civil service into disrepute;

  2. use their official position to further their private interests; or

  3. lay themselves open to suspicion of dishonesty.

3. Civil servants are liable to disciplinary action if they -

  1. fail to obey any government regulations or official instructions;

  2. misconduct themselves in any manner; or

  3. by their action bring the civil service into disrepute.

Overall Situation

4. The number of disciplinary cases in the civil service has remained rather stable. Statistics of disciplinary cases in the past three years are shown at Annex I.

5. Sources of the disciplinary cases include referrals from the ICAC, complaints from the public or staff, and actions initiated by the management. The majority of misconduct offences were related to unauthorised absence from duty, unauthorised paid outside work, unauthorised loans, improperly claiming allowances and breach of departmental instructions/orders.

6. In 1996 and 1997, 52 and 42 civil servants have been charged with corruption offences respectively. 28 and 18 were convicted in the past two years. Relevant statistics are at Annex 2. If a civil servant is convicted of a corruption offence, internal disciplinary action will be taken against him/her and punishment inflicted in addition to any court sentence imposed. Management action may also be taken on other cases as appropriate irrespective of whether any prosecution action has been taken.

Mechanism in dealing with Misconduct Cases

7. Disciplinary proceedings are conducted in accordance with the principle of natural justice. The following safeguards are provided :-

  1. legal advice is obtained to confirm that there is a prima facie case against the accused officer and that the charge against him/her is framed properly;

  2. disciplinary action has to be authorised by a directorate officer in departmental headquarters;

  3. all materials and documents forming part of the proceedings are given to the accused officer. He/She is given the right to be heard and to make representations on the charge against him/her;

  4. transcripts of the hearings are prepared and legal advice is sought that the proceedings have been conducted properly;

  5. the advice of the Public Service Commission is sought on the recommended punishment in respect of permanent officers;

  6. the authority to dismiss an officer on pensionable establishment remains with the Chief Executive while the authority to inflict less severe punishment has been delegated to the Secretary for the Civil Service; and

  7. an appeal against punishment may be lodged with the Chief Executive. The officer concerned may also apply for judicial review.

8. Disciplinary punishment may include verbal or written warning, reprimand, severe reprimand, financial penalty, reduction in rank, compulsory retirement or dismissal. In considering punishment, the following factors are taken into account:-

  1. severity of the misconduct or criminal offence;

  2. service and disciplinary record of the officer concerned; and

  3. other mitigating factors.

Measures to Promote Good Standards of Conduct

9. Other than disciplinary action, we also promote good conduct in the civil service. All civil service recruits on appointment are briefed on corruption prevention and other good management practices to avoid conflict of interest situations. New recruits are provided with copies of guidelines and rules extracted from the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance, the Acceptance of Advantages Notice and Civil Service Regulations on conflict of interest. Such guidelines and rules are circulated quarterly/half-yearly to remind civil servants (with additional reminders before Christmas and Chinese New Year) of the serious consequences of taking bribes or acceptance of gifts and entertainment without permission.

10. Departmental procedures are reviewed regularly to strengthen supervisory accountability and to avoid recurrence of commonly found misconduct cases. Also, to assist officers to overcome short-term financial difficulties and to avoid making of unauthorised loans, we have issued a booklet to explain the various approved sources of loans available, both inside and outside the Government, which civil servants may be able to obtain. Departments would likewise provide counselling and assistance by way of advance of salary or loans through departmental welfare funds in specified circumstances.

Division 4
Civil Service Bureau
February 1998

Annex 1

Disciplinary Cases for 1994/95 to 1997/98 (Apr to Sept)

Formal disciplinary action


disciplinary action


Compulsory retirement






















(Apr to Sept)






Note : (a) Informal disciplinary action for minor offences -

verbal and written warnings

(b) Formal disciplinary action -

reprimand, severe reprimand, financial penalty,

reduction in rank, compulsory retirement and dismissal

Annex 2

Corruption Reports Against all Government Departments

(1995 - 1997)




Civil servants under corruption complaints




Civil servants charged of corruption




Civil servants convicted