LC Paper No. ESC69/98-99
(These minutes have been seen by the Administration)

Ref : CB1/F/3/2

Establishment Subcommittee of the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council

Minutes of the eleventh meeting held at the Legislative Council Chamber on Wednesday, 9 June 1999, at 10:45 am

Members present :

Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong (Chairman)
Hon NG Leung-sing (Deputy Chairman)
Hon Cyd HO Sau-lan
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW LIANG Shuk-yee, JP
Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
Hon Bernard CHAN
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon Jasper TSANG Yok-sing, JP
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing, JP

Member attending :

Hon Christine LOH

Members absent :

Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon Michael HO Mun-ka
Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, JP
Dr Hon David LI Kwok-po, JP
Hon Margaret NG
Hon MA Fung-kwok
Hon CHAN Kwok-keung
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
Hon CHOY So-yuk

Public officers attending :

Mrs Carrie LAM, JP
Deputy Secretary for the Treasury

Deputy Secretary for the Civil Service

Miss Eliza YAU
Principal Assistant Secretary for Health and Welfare

Assistant Government Chemist, Government Laboratory

Miss Victoria TANG
Principal Assistant Secretary for Health and Welfare

Mrs Patricia CHU, JP
Deputy Director of Social Welfare

Miss Ann LAU
Assistant Director of Social Welfare

Mrs Rita LAU, JP
Secretary for Information Technology and Broadcasting

Deputy Secretary for Information Technology and Broadcasting
Clerk in attendance :
Miss Polly YEUNG
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)3
Staff in attendance :
Ms Pauline NG
Assistant Secretary General 1

Ms Anita SIT
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)8
EC(1999-2000)16 Proposed amendments to the Establishment Subcommittee Procedure

Mr NG Leung-sing, Deputy Chairman of the Subcommittee, introduced the item.

2 Miss Emily LAU referred to the proposed amendments to Paragraph 3 of the Establishment Subcommittee (ESC) Procedure and asked what constituted "sufficient grounds" in the sentence "The Subcommittee shall accept such applications only when sufficient grounds have been provided". At the invitation of the Chairman, Mrs Selina CHOW, Chairman of the Committee on Rules of Procedure (CRoP) said that pursuant to the recommendations of the CRoP on the handling of late applications for joining a committee, the corresponding paragraph in the ESC Procedure would require amendment. Members of CRoP agreed that provisions should be made for individual committees to consider late membership applications on grounds other than indisposition and absence from Hong Kong. A Member should support his/her late application to join a committee with reasons and it would be up to the committee concerned to decide whether the reasons given were sufficient grounds to justify the late membership.

3 The item was voted on and endorsed.

EC(1999-2000)13Proposed creation of one permanent post of Chief Chemist (D1) in the Government Laboratory to head the Health Science and Commodities Testing Services Group of the Analytical and Advisory Services Division

4 On Mrs Selina CHOW's concern about whether the proposed Chief Chemist (CC) post would have implications on Government fees and charges, the Deputy Secretary for the Treasury advised that where a funding proposal had implications on fees and charges of Government services, it was normal practice for such implications to be specified in the discussion paper. She confirmed that having examined the present proposal in this respect, the Administration concluded that the proposed creation of the CC post should not have any implications on Government fees and charges.

5 As regards plans for further new posts to be created in the Health Science and Commodities Testing Services (HSCTS) Group of the Government Laboratory (GL), the Assistant Government Chemist, GL(AGC/GL) advised that while there was no plan to create additional directorate posts in the HSCTS Group after the creation of the proposed CC post, provisions had been made for the creation of 27 new non-directorate posts in October 1999 to provide adequate support to various surveillance programmes on public health and the regulation of traditional Chinese medicine.

6 As regards the growth of workload in the areas of food products, pharmaceuticals and consumer goods by 28%, 48% and 130% respectively from 1994 to 1998, AGC/GL clarified that the percentage increases were calculated on the basis of the respective workload levels in 1994 and 1998. Regarding the projected increase of 20% and 40% in the respective workload of food monitoring activities and quality control of pharmaceuticals in the coming years, AGC/GL explained that the workload projections were made with reference to the corresponding work programmes of the Department of Health for the same period. He cited as an example that the number of pharmaceutical samples tested/to be tested would increase from 18 000 in 1998-99 to 24 000 in 1999-2000 due to the tightening of the registration requirements for pharmaceutical products and the projected growth in testing work on Chinese medicine. As regards the estimated workload in the area of consumer goods in the coming years, AGC/GL advised that although this was not a major work area for the coming year, he anticipated that there would be a moderate growth of workload in this area as some amendments to the statutory safety requirements on consumer products were being contemplated by the Administration.

7 With reference to the unit costs of analyses (at the price level of the respective year) conducted by the HSCTS Group for the period 1994 to 1998 set out in the discussion paper, AGC/CL pointed out that the steady rates over the years could be attributed to the considerable increase in workload on the one hand and the moderate increase in the staffing level of the HSCTS Group on the other. He remarked that while the GL would continue to strive to control costs, due regard had to be given to maintain and improve the standard of the testing work. In this connection, he advised that one major task of the proposed CC was to formulate new quality assurance measures to attain greater cost-effectiveness.

8 In reply to Miss Emily LAU's enquiry about the time required for the testing of food samples, AGC/GL advised that the reporting time was 18 working days on average. He remarked that as different samples required different analytical procedures, the aforesaid figure only represented an average of the reporting time for various food samples under routine situations.

9 Responding to Miss Emily LAU's concern that the reporting time of 18 working days was too long, particularly for cases involving food contamination, AGC/GL advised that the reporting time would depend on the necessary preparatory work and the relevant analytical procedures. In emergency cases, GL would mobilize and redeploy resources from other areas to provide urgent support service to the client departments concerned. He cited the recent incident of suspected presence of dioxin in the milk products of four European countries, and pointed out that the reporting time for the required tests was about 7 to 10 working days, which was similar to the normal reporting time for the testing of environmental samples on the presence of dioxin of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. In connection with the handling of emergencies, he advised that one major task of the proposed CC was to review the existing test procedures and staff deployment strategies with a view to establishing an emergency mechanism for urgent testing of non-conventional samples.

10 Miss Emily LAU and Mrs Selina CHOW considered that the existing average reporting time of 18 working days for food testing was too long. They urged the Administration to critically examine the existing procedures and staff deployment with a view to shortening the overall reporting time and in particular the reporting time in emergencies. At members' request, AGC/GL agreed to provide, before the Finance Committee meeting scheduled to consider this item, information on the reporting time indicators in respect of different categories of food testing.Admin.

11 The item was voted on and endorsed. Miss Emily LAU expressed reservation on the proposal pending further information to be provided by the Administration.

EC(1999-2000)14Proposed creation of a new rank and permanent post of Chief Clinical Psychologist (D1) in the Social Welfare Department to strengthen the directorate structure and head the Clinical Psychological Service

12 In response to Mr CHAN Wing-chan's enquiry on whether the clinical psychological (CPy) services of the Social Welfare Department (SWD) were available to individuals suffering from psychological problems resulting from unemployment, the Deputy Director of Social Welfare (Services) (DDSW(S)) agreed that under the current economic climate, unemployment would cause psychological problems such as suicidal tendencies as referred to in paragraph 3(e) of the discussion paper. She confirmed that the CPy service of SWD and non-government organisations (NGOs) had all along been available to individuals suffering from psychological problems, including those related to unemployment. At the request of Mr CHAN, DDSW(S) agreed to consider specifying that individuals affected by unemployment would also be one of the client categories of the CPy services of SWD.Admin.

13 Mr TSANG Yok-sing sought clarification on whether CPy services were currently available to the Kowloon West region as there was no Senior Clinical Psychologist (SCP) designated for this region according to the existing organization chart of SWD. DDSW(S) confirmed that while there were only four CPy teams each headed by a SCP at present, the Kowloon West and Kowloon East regions were serviced by the CPy team of the Kowloon East Regional Office. To cope with the increasing demand for CPy services and to enable CPy services to be more easily accessible to clients in Kowloon West Region, SWD was bidding for additional resources to set up an additional CPy team in the near future.

14 On the work of the proposed Chief Clinical Psychologist (CCP) on the strategic planning of the CPy service, DDSW(S) elaborated that CPy services cut across a wide spectrum of welfare services and were delivered in varied modes according to clients' needs and circumstances. In the past, the focus of the CPy services of SWD had been on the areas of family and rehabilitation, but there had been a growing demand for CPy services in other areas of welfare service, particularly elderly and youth services. To meet the growing diversity and complexity of the CPy service, SWD needed to review its service priorities and formulate strategies for future development of the service. It was necessary for a CPy specialist at the senior management level to take forward these major tasks and hence, the present proposal for creation of a permanent CCP post.

15 As regards Mr YEUNG Yiu-chung's concern about the need to set service quality standards and draw up performance indicators for the CPy service, DDSW(S) advised that although some guidelines on service quality standards were in place for internal reference, there was no formal service manual setting out precise and comprehensive service standards and requirements. Improvement in this regard was required to cope with the development of the service in line with the policy of upgrading the service quality standards of various welfare services. This would be one of the key responsibilities of the proposed CCP.

16 Addressing Miss Cyd HO's concerns about the adequacy of manpower resources for the CPy service, DDSW confirmed that staffing at both the management and the frontline levels of the CPy service needed to be strengthened to meet the increasing demand for the service. At present, each Clinical Psychologist (CP) handled about 50 to 60 cases at any one time, and on average, the normal duration of a case was about six months. The waiting time from registration to the first appointment for assessment was about one month on average, while priority would be given to court cases which might require urgent psychological assessment of the party/parties involved. Apart from handling cases concerning individuals, CPs and SCPs would outreach to rehabilitative service and correctional institutions to provide professional advice for service workers on the handling of psychological problems of clients. As regards changes in the CP establishment over the past years, DDSW(S) advised that the CP establishment of SWD and NGOs at the frontline level had been expanded from 3 SCPs and 29 CPs in 1995-96 to 4 SCPs and 58 CPs in 1998-99. Provision had also been made for the creation of four additional CP posts in 1999-2000. In this connection, DDSW(S) advised that one major task of the proposed CCP was to initiate and implement measures to streamline the existing case management procedures with a view to shortening the waiting time for assessment. She envisaged that with the provision of additional CP posts as currently planned, and if the number of court cases requiring urgent assessment remained steady, it might be feasible to shorten the waiting time between registration and the first appointment for assessment to about two weeks.

17 As regards manpower training for the CPy service, DDSW(S) informed members that in anticipation of the expanding CPy service, the Administration had requested the University of Hong Kong and the Chinese University of Hong Kong to increase the student intake for CPy training. SWD and NGOs had all along provided field work placement for the relevant training programmes. In 1998-99, there were 27 post-graduates in CPy from the two universities and some of them had joined the CPy service of SWD.

18 Miss Emily LAU referred to the wider issue of recruitment arrangements for filling civil service posts and said that SWD and some other Government departments had been offering appointments on varied terms and at different salary levels over the past few months. She queried whether the Administration was already implementing changes to its appointment policies and practices without awaiting the results of the consultation exercise for the Civil Service Reform (CSR). In response, the Deputy Secretary for the Civil Service advised that the recruitment freeze effective on 1 April 1999 applied to civil service posts at all levels. Clear guidelines on the appointment arrangements during the freeze period had been provided all bureaux and departments. He confirmed that the Administration had not and would not pre-empt the outcome of the CSR through the use of the non-civil service appointment arrangements during the freeze period. He supplemented that, except for the creation of directorate posts which required the approval of the Finance Committee, individual bureaux/departments had a certain degree of flexibility within specified parameters to decide how vacant posts should be filled and the appropriate appointment terms to be offered during the freeze period. In this connection, the Chairman advised and members agreed that this subject should be pursued at the relevant Panel(s), if necessary.

19 The item was voted on and endorsed.

EC(1999-2000)15 Proposed creation of two supernumerary posts of one Administrative Officer Staff Grade B (D3) and one Chief Engineer (D1) for a period of three years and increase in the establishment ceiling from $25,746,000 by $3,166,560 to $28,912,560 in 1999-2000 for the creation of five non-directorate posts in the Information Technology and Broadcasting Bureau of Government Secretariat to oversee the Cyberport development

20 On the extent to which the proposed Deputy Secretary for Information Technology and Broadcasting (Cyberport) (DS/ITB(C)) could have a say on the design and construction of the Cyberport, the Secretary for Information Technology and Broadcasting (SITB) recapitulated that in discharging the duty of overseeing the Cyberport development, DS/ITB(C) was answerable to SITB. The Deputy Secretary for Information Technology and Broadcasting (DS/ITB) supplemented that according to the terms of the Letter of Intent signed with the Pacific Century Group (PCG), the design and specifications for the buildings and facilities of the Cyberport portion would require the approval of the Government.

21 On the task of the proposed Cyberport Division to encourage and assist future tenants to set up their operations in Hong Kong prior to completion of Phase 1 of the Cyberport, DS/ITB advised that as some future tenants did not have previous operating experience in Hong Kong, it would be beneficial to both Hong Kong and these future tenants to set up their operations in Hong Kong as early as possible. The Cyberport Division, in conjunction with the Industry Department, would provide advice and assistance in this regard. She however confirmed that the Government would not subsidize these tenants for any temporary accommodation in Hong Kong prior to their moving into the Cyberport.

22 As regards the vetting and screening of tenancy applications, SITB advised that the Cyberport Division would be tasked with the responsibility to draw up the tenancy assessment criteria, which the future management of the Cyberport would be required to follow in assessing tenancy applications. Regarding the office rental of the Cyberport, DS/ITB advised that the rental would be set at a competitive level, having regard to the prevailing office rental of similar developments in neighbouring countries. In this connection, she informed members that the office rental of similar developments in Malaysia and Singapore was in the order of $8 to $12 per square foot.

23 Miss Emily LAU said that Members of the Frontier disagreed with the way the Administration took forward the Cyberport project. As far as the present proposal was concerned, she expressed grave concern about the division of responsibilities between the Government and PCG over the Cyberport project. She was particularly concerned about the duplication of work and resources over certain tasks such as marketing which both PCG and the Government would perform.

24 In response, SITB and DS/ITB pointed out that pursuant to the Letter of Intent, PCG was responsible for the design, construction, development and marketing of the Cyberport. However, it was necessary for the Government to oversee the entire project to ensure that the facilities of the Cyberport met the requirements of the future tenants. As regards the division of work between the Cyberport Division and PCG on marketing, SITB and DS/ITB elaborated that PCG would take the primary role on marketing the Cyberport while the Cyberport Division would monitor the marketing work and oversee the implementation of a marketing strategy. Under the terms of the Letter of Intent, PCG would be required to take up not less than 20% and not more than 50% of the total office premises within the first 5 years of the completion of Phase 1 if the Cyberport portion did not attract tenants as envisaged. Hence, PCG would need to make the best effort to market the Cyberport or it would have to *underwrite* up to 50% of the office premises at the Cyberport. The Cyberport Division would also advise PCG of the tenancy assessment criteria and the target types of tenants pursuant to the objectives of the Cyberport development. Furthermore, the Cyberport Division would deal with direct enquiries from prospective tenants and liaise with registered potential tenants to obtain first-hand information on their expectations and requirements, and to solicit their views on the design and specifications proposed by PCG.

25 Taking note of the Administration's explanation, Miss Emily LAU still considered that the division of responsibilities between the Government and PCG over the Cyberport project was unclear. She requested and the Administration agreed to set out further information, preferably in the form of a chart, on the division of work between the Government and the PCG before the relevant FC meeting scheduled to consider this item.Admin.

26 Mrs Selina CHOW was of the view that the Government should take up the tasks set out in paragraph 7 of the discussion paper given that the Cyberport was a joint venture project between the Government and PCG. She was keen to ensure that the Administration should have adequate resources in order to perform these important tasks effectively. Mrs CHOW was however concerned that Government officials staffing the Cyberport Division might not have the calibre and skills for the tasks, most of which were of a commercial nature. She also commented that the proposed Chief Engineer, who would oversee the technical aspects of the development, should have the necessary expertise in Information Technology (IT) as well. In response, SITB assured members that the Administration would select suitable officers to fill the posts. While the Administration was confident that officers staffing the Cyberport Division would be competent for its tasks, expert advice on IT and marketing could be enlisted when required.

27 Dr Raymond HO concurred that the Government should have a dedicated team to oversee the Cyberport project, and he commented that the relationship between the Government and PCG was similar to that between the Government and the project consultant in a public works project. He requested the Administration to provide more detailed information on the future responsibilities of the proposed two directorate posts should they differ from those listed in the present proposal due to changing needs.Admin.

28 Miss Cyd HO said that having entered into a joint venture with a private company on a commercial project such as the Cyberport without going through open tendering procedures would inevitably give rise to conflicts of interests and an unclear relationship between the Government and the private company. In response, SITB advised that the respective rights and obligations of the Government and PCG had been prescribed in the Letter of Intent and would be specified in detail in the future legal agreements with PCG. She assured members that the Government's decisions on the Cyberport would always be based on public interest and the question of conflict of interests would not arise.

29 In reply to Miss Cyd HO's enquiry about the involvement of the Cyberport Division in establishing the management structure of the Cyberport and the related institutional arrangements, DS/ITB advised that in drawing up the future management structure for the Cyberport, the Cyberport Division would need to examine the level of monitoring required by the Government, the various institutional options for the management body, and the mechanism for overseeing the execution of the legal agreements between the Government and PCG. She undertook to report to the relevant Panel after a more concrete proposal on the management structure had been drawn up by the Cyberport Division. In this connection, Miss Emily LAU requested the Administration to provide further information on the role, composition and responsibilities of the future management body for the Cyberport, and for easy reference, to incorporate the information into the chart delineating the responsibilities between the Government and PCG. The Administration agreed to provide as much information as practicable for members' reference.X X

30 As to the continued need for the proposed supernumerary posts, DS/ITB pointed out that upon the full establishment of the management structure for the Cyberport, the proposed supernumerary posts would no longer be required.

31 The item was voted on and endorsed. Miss Emily LAU and Miss Cyd HO requested that their grave reservation on the proposal be recorded.

32 Miss Emily LAU requested that this item be voted on separately at the relevant Finance Committee meeting.

33 The Subcommittee was adjourned at 12:15 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
29 June 1999