Provisional LegCo Public Service Panel
Meeting on 26 January 1998

Creation of Posts in the Civil Service


At the last Public Service Panel meeting on 22 December 1997, Members expressed concern over the rate of increase of the creation of directorate posts in the past few months. This paper explains the mechanism for the creation of posts in the civil service and the controls which are in place to provide the necessary checks and balances.

Role of Finance Committee/Establishment Subcommittee

2. Posts in the civil service are created on the approval of Finance Committee or by Controlling Officers under delegated authority. Finance Committee, under section 8 of the Public Finance Ordinance, has delegated to the Financial Secretary various powers relating to the creation of posts. The delegation provides for the Financial Secretary to further delegate his powers to other public officers subject to certain provisions.

3. The terms of reference of the Establishment Subcommittee which assists Finance Committee in scrutinising staffing proposals from the Administration reflects the scope of control of Finance Committee in these matters. Briefly, Finance Committee approval must be sought in respect of -

  1. creation of non-directorate posts necessitating changes to the establishment ceiling approved in the context of Estimates (see also paragraph 7 below);

  2. creation of new ranks and grades or abolition of existing ranks and grades;

  3. redeployment, creation or deletion of permanent directorate posts;

  4. creation of supernumerary directorate posts for more than six months; and

  5. creation of directorate-level consultants lasting longer than one-year.

Role of Controlling Officers

4. Under authority delegated by the Financial Secretary, Controlling Officers may -

  1. redeploy, create or delete non-directorate posts provided they do not exceed the department's establishment ceiling;

  2. create supernumerary directorate posts, subject to Civil Service Bureau's approval and funds being available, for not more than six months for any purpose, and up to 12 months for certain specific purposes, for example, to cover pre-retirement leave; and

  3. create supernumerary non-directorate posts without being subject to establishment ceilings under specified circumstances (e.g. pre-tirement leave and when held against posts with a NAMS value at least equivalent to the supernumerary post in question).

Role of Departmental Establishment Committee and Advisory Bodies

5. Individual bureaux and departments have a Departmental Establishment Committee which includes a directorate level representative from the relevant policy bureau. The Committee is to advise Controlling Officers on the creation and deletion of non-directorate posts.

6. Policy bureaux and Controlling Officers are required to seek either Civil Service Bureau's views or those of other Heads of Grades on ranking and grading aspects of posts under their purview. Creation of new permanent directorate posts is subject not only to scrutiny by Civil Service Bureau but also to the advice of the Standing Committee on Directorate Salaries and Conditions of Service which is appointed by the Chief Executive to advise him on matters concerning the directorate level staff in the civil service.

Establishment Control Mechanisms

7. The "establishment ceiling" is an establishment control mechanism used in the civil service. It is the limit placed on the size of the non-directorate establishment, expressed in terms of the total notional annual midpoint salary (NAMS) value of all non-directorate posts in the permanent establishment. Controlling Officers may exercise their delegated authority to create or delete non-directorate posts provided their establishment ceiling is not exceeded. This is to give them flexibility in managing their human resources so that they could respond sufficiently quickly and effectively to changing circumstances. The establishment ceiling is stated in the annual Estimates each year and any changes to the ceiling during the year require the approval of Finance Committee.

8. Controlling Officers are responsible and accountable for the resources under their control. It is their duty to ensure that new posts are only created when genuinely required. In doing so, they are expected to re-examine the work being done and consider the scope for redeploying existing staff to meet the new tasks by adjusting priorities, where possible.

9. Controlling Officers, together with their Policy Secretaries, also are required regularly to review the performance of their departments in the context of quarterly Programme Reviews. These reviews will include examination of the efficiency and effectiveness of the units carrying out the Programmes, and the staffing and other resource requirements.

10. Details on the delegations by Finance Committee and the Financial Secretary, and the procedures to be followed in relation to the creation of posts in the civil service are laid down in a Financial Circular issued by the Secretary for the Treasury.


11. The procedures and mechanisms set out in the foregoing paragraphs have been established to ensure that additional posts, both at the directorate and other levels, are only created when functionally justified. Based on the above mechanisms, the Finance Committee has approved a net creation of 20 permanent and 8 supernumerary directorate posts since 1 July 1997. As regards non-directorate posts, the most up-to-date returns from the Controlling Officers show there was a net increase of 390 permanent and 1 supernumerary posts during the period from 1 July 1997 to 30 September 1997.

Civil Service Bureau
19 January 1998