Legislative Council

LC Paper No. CB(1) 1417/98-99
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration)

Ref : CB1/PL/PS/1

Legislative Council
Panel on Public Service
Minutes of meeting held on Monday, 19 April 1999, at 12:00 noon in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

Hon TAM Yiu-chung, JP (Chairman)
Hon Mrs Sophie LEUNG LAU Yau-fun, JP (Deputy Chairman)
Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
Hon LEE Kai-ming, JP
Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
Hon CHAN Kwok-keung
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP

Member absent :

Hon Howard YOUNG, JP

Public officers attending:

For agenda items IV and V

Deputy Secretary for the Civil Service 2

For agenda item IV

Mr CHING Sik-fan, JP
Assistant Director of Accounting Services (Computer)

For agenda item V

Director, Business and Services Promotion Unit

Miss Leonia TAI
Assistant Director (Special Duties)
Business and Services Promotion Unit
Clerk in attendance :

Mr LAW Wing-lok
Chief Assistant Secretary (2)5
Staff in attendance :
Miss Salumi CHAN
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)5

Mr Matthew LOO
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)7

Miss Mary SO
Senior Assistant Secretary (2)8
I. Confirmation of minutes of meeting on 15 March 1999
(LC Paper No. CB(2) 1694/98-99)

The minutes of the meeting held on 15 March 1999 were confirmed.

II. Matters arising
(LC Paper No. CB(2) 1695/98-99(01) -- submission from the Hong Kong Chinese Civil Servants' Association
LC Paper No. CB(2) 1695/98-99(02) -- submission from the Government Disciplined Services General Union
LC Paper No. CB(2) 1695/98-99(03) -- an anonymous submission from a member of the public)

Invitation of submissions and meeting with deputations on the 'Consultation Document on Civil Service Reform'

2. The Chairman advised that in response to the advertisement placed in local newspapers inviting the public to submit their views on the "Consultation Document on Civil Service Reform" and to attend the special Panel meeting on 29 April 1999, only two deputations and an anonymous person had submitted their views by the deadline on 15 April 1999. The two deputations, the Hong Kong Chinese Civil Servants' Association and the Government Disciplined Services General Union, had also indicated that they would attend the special meeting.

3. After deliberations, the Panel agreed to extend the deadline from 15 April to 26 April 1999 and to invite the major staff unions of the civil service to submit their views on the consultation document and to attend the special meeting.

(Post-meeting note: Invitation letters to the major staff unions of the civil service were issued by the Clerk on 21 April 1999.)

III. Date of next meeting and items for discussion
(LC Paper No. CB(2) 1695/98-99(04) - List of outstanding items)

4. Members noted that the issue of employment of non-civil service contract staff at 70% of the current basic salary by the Social Welfare Department had been referred to the Panel after Members' meeting with deputations in the Complaints Division on 14 April 1999 and discussions at the special Finance Committee meeting on 16 April 1999. The Panel agreed to discuss the issue and the following items at the next regular meeting on 17 May 1999:

  1. Prevention of double housing benefits for civil servants and staff employed in publicly funded organizations; and

  2. Provision of various job-related and non job-related allowances in the civil service.
IV. Year 2000 (Y2K) compliance exercise in Government and non-government organizations providing essential services within the policy areas of Civil Service Bureau
(LC Paper No. CB(2) 1695/98-99(05) - Paper from the Administration
LC Paper No. CB(2) 1695/98-99(06) - Paper from the LegCo Secretariat)

5. At the Chairman's invitation, Deputy Secretary for the Civil Service 2 (DSCS2) briefed members on the position of Y2K compliance of computer systems in the Civil Service Bureau (CSB) and departments under Secretary for the Civil Service (SCS)'s policy purview. In essence, he advised that all mission-critical systems and non-critical systems under CSB had all been confirmed to be Y2K compliant. The several non-Y2K compliant software would be upgraded or replaced before end of June 1999.

6. In response to Mr CHAN Wing-chan, Assistant Director of Accounting Services (Computer) (ADAS(C)) advised that the Treasury, though not under SCS's purview, was responsible for the mission-critical systems for the payment of civil service salaries, allowances, etc. He confirmed that modification/enhancement work on the systems had been completed and they were all Y2K compliant.

7. Mr LEE Cheuk-yan asked whether contingency plans were in place for the breakdown of computer systems in Y2K. DSCS2 responded that CSB did not anticipate any problems with the systems. Nevertheless, hardcopies of most of the data were available as back-up. Regarding the computer systems of the Treasury, ADAS(C) advised that simulation tests is being done to ensure Y2K compliance.

8. Mr LEE Kai-ming was concerned whether civil servants of the junior ranks, such as those of the clerical grades, were aware of the problems of Y2K. DSCS2 pointed out that the use of standalone computers had been increasing at all levels throughout the civil service. A lot of initiatives had been taken to train civil servants on the use of computers and to promote their awareness of Y2K compliance. The general understanding of the issue within the civil service was quite high.

V. Briefing by the Administration on the proposed creation of one supernumerary post (D2) in the Business and Services Promotion Unit
(LC Paper No. CB(2) 1686/98-99(01) - issued under LC Paper No. CB(2) 1686/98-99 on 13 April 1999)

9. Director, Business and Services Promotion Unit (D, BSPU) briefed members on the proposed creation of a supernumerary post of Administrative Officer Staff Grade C (AOSGC) (D2) in the Business and Services Promotion Unit of the Financial Secretary's Office for three years starting from 30 April 1999 to handle all policy, legislative and administrative issues on corporatization at the central level. Apart from identifying candidates for corporatization, the post holder would take the lead to work with departments and policy bureaux concerned to examine the key issues involved, bring forward specific proposals, work out business and financial plans, draft necessary legislation, and conduct staff consultation necessary to transform the identified departments into public corporations. The Administration's plan was to establish a limited number of public corporations in the coming years. The post holder would assume a central coordinating role in the corporatization programme. D, BSPU added that the staffing proposal would be submitted to the Establishment Subcommittee for discussion on 21 April 1999.

10. Responding to Mr LEE Kai-ming, D, BSPU advised that it was necessary to create a dedicated post at the central level to assist policy bureax and department heads in considering corporatization proposals. It was expected that most of the considerations involved in individual proposals would be similar, for example, the considerations in working out business plans and drafting legislation. A dedicated post at the central level would enable the retention of knowledge and experience gained through the process of corporatization. The post holder could therefore assist the department heads in the subsequent corporatization exercises in the light of their respective circumstances.

11. Mr LEE Kai-ming sought clarification on the role of the proposed AOSGC post, i.e. whether he was supposed to steer or assist the departments in implementing the corporatization programme. D, BSPU responded that the post holder was responsible for both. The Administration's plan was to bring forward individual corporatization proposals at a steady pace. The post holder would be steering the programme by deciding the sequence and assisting the department heads in their respective cases.

12. The Chairman asked whether all the identified departments would be transformed into public corporations within three years and whether the Housing Department (HD) was included in the programme. D, BSPU responded that in the first year, the post holder would focus on drafting and seeing through the first few sets of legislative proposals for establishing the first batches of public corporations. It was expected that a bill on the corporatization of an identified department or part of the department would be introduced to the Legislative Council in the first quarter of year 2000. Experience gained in the scrutiny of this bill would be taken into account in the drawing up of the second and subsequent corporatization proposals. D, BSPU considered it difficult to confirm at this stage the progress after the three-year period. It was expected that by then, the Administration might issue a handbook on corporatization for the reference of bureaux and departments, listing the issues to be addressed and the options on the way forward etc.

13. D, BSPU also clarified that his team had not been involved in the corporatization of HD, which was entirely a matter for the Housing Authority. However, as far as he understood, the term "corporatization" referred to in the reform of HD did not carry the same meaning as that used by CSB.

14. Mr LEE Cheuk-yan pointed out that corporatization of government activities would have significant impact on the community and the Administration, as it would affect the level of fees to be charged on the services provided to the public and also on government revenue. He therefore stressed that the Financial Secretary (FS) should have a thorough discussion with Legislative Council Members on the scope and principles of corporatization before the Administration decided on the way forward and put up any staffing proposals. He was also of the view that the creation of a dedicated post at the central level would not be justified as the Administration had indicated intention to engage consultants.

15. D, BSPU advised that in response to concerns of Legislative Council Members and the public at large, the Administration had been alert in identifying new ways of providing its services in a more efficient and cost-effective manner whilst maintaining the quality of services. One of the ways identified was corporatization of government activities. The Administration would, by discussing with the policy secretaries and department heads, identify the departments for which corporatization could be a useful tool to get better value for money as far as delivery of their areas of activities was concerned. D, BSPU further advised that consultants might be employed in some, but not all, of those cases to assist the departments in drawing up business plans. As a start, the Administration would bring forward one or two specific proposals in the form of a bill so that discussion on the subject would be more focused and fruitful.

16. Mr LEE Cheuk yan did not see the need to wait for any specific legislative proposal as the proposed privatization of the Water Supplies Department was a case ready for discussion. He reiterated his view that FS should have a thorough discussion with Members on the subject before the Administration decided on the way forward. D, BSPU undertook to convey Mr LEE's request to FS.Admin

17. Mr LEE Kai-ming queried whether it was appropriate for the Administration to create the proposed AOSGC post before the result of the consultation exercise on civil service reform was concluded. DSCS2 pointed out that the proposed AOSGC post was created to deal with the additional workload arising from the implementation of the policy commitment on corporatization, which was distinct from the civil service reform.

18. The meeting ended at 1:00 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
14 June 1999