LegCo Panel on Public Service
Meeting on 24 June 1996

Creation of Posts in the Civil Service
and Employment of Non-Civil Servants


In connection with a recent case where two language research professionals have been employed on contract terms using resources from the Language Fund, Members have asked to be informed on the mechanism in the creation of new posts in the civil service, Government's policy on the creation of non-civil service posts funded by established funds and the implications of such on civil service appointments.

2. Arising from the discussion at an Establishment Subcommittee meeting in April, the Administration also agreed to produce a paper for the information of the LegCo Panel on Public Service on how and in what way departments review their establishment and the relevant control mechanisms in place to monitor the creation and deletion of civil service posts. The following sets out the relevant information on these areas for Members' information and references.

Creation of Posts in the Civil Service

Role of Finance Committee/Establishment Subcommittee

3. 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 provisos.

4. 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 the Estimates (see also paragraph 8 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 consultancies lasting longer than one-year.

Role of Controlling Officers

5. On the other hand, under the authority delegated by the Financial Secretary, Controlling Officers may -

  1. redeploy, create or delete non-directorate posts provided they do not exceed their establishment ceilings;
  2. create supernumerary directorate posts, subject to Civil Service Branch'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;
  3. create supernumerary non-directorate posts without being subject to establishment ceilings under specified circumstances (e.g. pre-retirement leave and when held against posts with a NAMS value at least equivalent to the supernumerary post in question).

Role of Other Bodies

6. A Departmental Establishment Committee comprising a directorate level representative from the policy branch is formed in each branch/department to advise Controlling Officers on the creation and deletion of non-directorate posts.

7. Policy branches and Controlling Officers are required to seek either Civil Service Branch's views or those of other Heads of Grades of ranking and grading aspects of grades the management of which they are responsible. Creation of new permanent directorate posts, and new ranks or grades are subject not only to scrutiny by Civil Service Branch but also to the advice of the relevant Standing body on Salaries and Conditions of Service appointed by the Governor.

Establishment Control Mechanisms

8. 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. To give Controlling Officers reasonable flexibility in managing their human resources so that they could respond sufficiently quickly and effectively to changing circumstances, Controlling Officers may exercise their delegated authority to create or delete non-directorate posts provided their establishment ceiling is not exceeded. The establishment ceiling is stated in the annual Estimates each year. Any change to the establishment ceiling during the year requires the approval of the Finance Committee.

19. 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.

10. 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.

11. 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.

Employment of Non-Civil Servants in the Government

12. Non-civil servants, funded directly or indirectly by the government, are mainly employed by independent or statutory bodies. The number of non-civil servants employed in government departments is small compared with the size of mainstream civil servants. The employment of non-civil servants in the government (in its broader sense including quasi-government bodies) falls broadly into the following categories -

  1. employment of non-civil servants by independent/statutory bodies (e.g. the Housing Authority, the Hospital Authority, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the Vocational Training Council) under their statutory authority or authority specifically approved by the Finance Committee;
  2. statutory appointments on a full-time basis made under specific ordinances, the packages of which have been approved by the Finance Committee. For example, the Chairman of the Public Service Commission, the Commissioner for Administrative Complaints and the Chairperson of the Equal Opportunities Commission
  3. resident site staff (e.g. engineers, surveyors, works inspectors, etc.) engaged by contractors/consultants on behalf of government as part of capital works contracts approved under the Public Works Programme;
  4. employment of university graduates under the Graduate Training Scheme in various professional grades, the purpose of which is to provide training opportunities to fresh graduates in order to help ensure a supply of local professionals;
  5. employment of temporary staff and short-term contract staff on an ad hoc or fixed-term basis. The terms and procedures of employment of temporary staff are clearly laid down in Civil Service Branch Circulars and Civil Service Regulations, while those for short-term contract staff are largely modelled on their civil service counter-parts. We submitted a paper for Members' information on 22 January 1996 on the circumstances and terms of employing temporary staff and short-term contract staff. The paper is again annexed for Members' ease of reference; and
  6. employment of individuals as consultants or contract staff where the specialised functions or tasks require expertise not readily available in the civil service or where the tasks are of a nature or duration where civil service appointments are not cost effective or appropriate.

13. In the case of paragraph 12(f) above, where the appointments are funded by the Government direct, these appointments are subject to the following procedures -

  1. for appointments involving a contract of service and falling within the definition of special appointments under the Public Service Commission Regulations, advice of the Public Service Commission has to be sought; and
  2. for employment of individuals as consultants at a directorate equivalent level which last for more than a year or is renewable, approval from the Establishment Subcommittee has to be sought, unless prior approval has been given by the Finance Committee.

Examples of such appointments include employment of consultants in Legal Department, employment of staff tutors in Civil Service Training and Development Institute (CSTDI), employment of advisors and researchers in the Central Policy Unit (CPU), and employment of a chief executive and curriculum officers for the Curriculum Development Institute (CDI) in Education Department (ED). In the latter three cases, prior approval has been given by the Finance Committee.

14. In a thorough search , we have only been able to trace a few instances where the employment of individuals as consultants or contract staff by policy branches/departments are not funded directly by the Government. These include -

  1. the employment of three contract staff (two ranked at MPS Pt. 28-33 and one at MPS Pt. 16-21) funded by the Language Fund to support the Language Fund Secretariat which assists in the management of the Fund;
  2. the employment of a Project Officer (ranked at MPS Pt. 25-26) in the CDI under ED, which is funded by the Language Fund. The Project Officer is required to undertake an one-off 3-year project of developing the target oriented curriculum on Chinese language for primary schools;
  3. the employment of the Head (ranked at D2) and Assistant Secretary (Research) (ranked at MPS Pt. 45-49) of the Support Unit for the Standing Committee on Language Education and Research (SCOLAR) which is funded by the Language Fund, the circumstances of which are set out in paragraph 16 below; and
  4. the employment of a Vice-President (Marketing) (ranked at MPS Pt. 42) to head the Marketing Consultancy Office under Social Welfare Department (SWD), which is a pilot project set up under the recommendation of the Working Party on Training and Employment for People with Disabilities to provide consultation to sheltered workshops on marketing and resources. The appointment is paid for by the Lotteries Fund and is subject to the advice of the Advisory Committee on Marketing and Resources set up by the Director of Social Welfare.

15. Such appointments of non-civil servants are very much the exception. Cases are few and far between and are one-off or fixed-term in nature. This is because funding sources other than the general revenue are rare and any proposal has to satisfy the aims or terms of reference and other specific requirements of the respective funding sources before funds can be approved. On the few occasions where such fundings could be identified and secured, the government acts as the agency for the respective established funds in implementing the specific projects or tasks pertinent to the goals for which the funds are set up.

Consultants funded by the Language Fund

16. The Education Commission published its Report No. 6 in March 1966. The Report recommended a series of improvements to promote language proficiency in schools. These include the setting up of SCOLAR to conduct research into the language needs in Hong Kong, to develop policies designed to meet these needs, and to monitor and evaluate such policies. In order to provide the necessary professional and administrative support to the SCOLAR, the Education Commission also proposes to establish a Support Unit for SCOLAR. The Secretary for Education and Manpower has recently applied to the Language Fund for a sum of $13.1 million, of which $7.45 million are for employment of two language research professionals on contract terms for two years. The Language Fund Advisory Committee recommended the application for approval after careful consideration. For more details of the background, Members may wish to refer to the letter from the Secretary for Education and Manpower to Dr. the Hon Anthony CHEUNG Bing-leung dated 10 May 1996.


17. We recognise the concern of Members over the use of established funds, which are funded by the government, for the purpose of employing individuals to work in Government branches/departments. We therefore propose that, to address Members' concern, the fund manager be asked to submit reports, via the relevant policy secretary, to the relevant LegCo Panel if the Fund has in the past year been used for the employment of individuals to work in Government branches and departments at the equivalent of the directorate level. The Civil Service Branch will, in all future individual cases of this sort involving position equivalent to a directorate level, advise the policy branch concerned of its view as to the merits of the proposal and the proposed level of the post(s).

Civil Service Branch
21 June 1996

Last Updated on 21 Aug, 1998