Information Note for the LegCo Panel
on Public Service Meeting on 18 January 1999
Civil Servants Borrowing Money from Loan Sharks
To brief Members on the position of reported cases on civil servants borrowing money from unauthorized sources.The Policy and Regulations
2.The Administration attaches great importance to upholding the high standards of conduct in the civil service. Civil servants are prohibited from borrowing money from sources other than those authorized, unless with approval of their Heads of Department, in accordance with the relevant Civil Service Regulations and Acceptance of Advantages (1992) Notice. Officers who contravene the regulations are liable to disciplinary punishment, and where circumstances of the cases warrant, they may be prosecuted under Section 3 of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance, Cap 201 (PBO).Overall Situation
3.Cases involving civil servants obtaining unauthorized loans come from various sources, including referrals by the ICAC/Police, complaints from the public and staff, and management initiatives undertaken by individual departments.
4.For the 12-month period from October 1997 to September 1998, 40 civil servants were disciplined for obtaining unauthorized loans. Among them, one was dismissed, 11 compulsorily retired and 28 imposed with other disciplinary punishments including reprimand and severe reprimand. The number of cases of civil servants obtaining unauthorized loans remains small, and indicates that unauthorized loan is not a widespread problem in the civil service.Management Measures
5.While it is the responsibility of individual officers to manage their personal finances sensibly, the Administration also takes appropriate measures to prevent and detect situations where officers obtaining unauthorized loans. These measures include:
- departments are requested to remind their staff regularly to use their money wisely and to avoid incurring debts beyond their capability of repayment. They are also requested to circulate regularly among their staff the rules and regulations concerning money borrowing, and to bring to their attention the sources of finance available to them in the event of short-term financial difficulties;
- departments remain alert as to whether their staff have got into financial difficulties and breached any rule or regulation with regard to money borrowing. For example, the Hong Kong Police Force has been carrying out surveys on the indebtedness of its staff to closely monitor the situation. It has also issued administrative instructions to assist supervisors at all level to identify, prevent and deal with indebtedness among their staff. Additionally, education/training sessions are organised to enhance awareness on the pitfalls of indebtedness at all levels of officers and to discourage overspending habits and gambling;
- officers found or suspected to have serious financial difficulties would be counselled and closely supervised in the performance of duties. Officers becoming bankrupt are required to report the matter to their Heads of Department immediately. Action would be taken to ensure that these officers are not employed on duties involving the handling of public money;
- we take a serious view on enforcement and will take disciplinary action on cases of breaches of relevant rules and regulations with regard to money lending. Depending on circumstances of the cases, prosecution action may be taken by ICAC under Section 3 of the PBO for obtaining unauthorized loans;
- to assist officers with short-term financial difficulties and to avoid making of unauthorized loans, the Civil Service Bureau has issued a booklet to explain the various approved sources of loan available, both inside and outside the Government, which civil servants may be able to obtain; and
- where necessary, departments may provide counselling and assistance by way of advance of salary or loans through departmental relief funds/departmental welfare funds in specified circumstances.
6.The size of civil servants found to have borrowed money from unauthorized sources remains small. We shall continue to monitor the situation closely and remind officers of their responsibility to avoid getting into financial problems.
Civil Service Bureau