Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. ESC 65
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref : CB1/F/3/2

Establishment Subcommittee of the
Provisional Legislative Council

Minutes of the meeting held at the Legislative Council Chamber on Friday, 6 February 1998, at 2:30 pm

Members present:

Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-
Hong (Chairman)
Hon NG Leung-sing (Deputy Chairman)
Hon WONG Siu-yee

Mrs Peggy LAM, JP
Hon Henry WU
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon TSANG Yok-sing
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Hon Kennedy WONG Ying-ho
Dr Hon Charles YEUNG Chun-kam
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon IP Kwok-him
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
Hon CHOY So-yuk

Members absent :

Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, JP
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Dr Hon David LI Kwok-po, JP
Hon Henry TANG Ying-yen, JP
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
Hon HUI Yin-fat, JP
Hon Paul CHENG Ming-fun, JP
Hon CHENG Yiu-tong
Hon Timothy FOK Tsun-ting

Public officers attending :

Mrs Carrie LAM, JP
Deputy Secretary for the Treasury

Mrs Philomena LEUNG
Deputy Secretary for the Civil Service

Principal Assistant Secretary for Works

Deputy Director of Architectural Services

Assistant Director of Education

Mr KAM Wai-yip
Deputy Commissioner for Transport

Mr LO Sing-yi
Chief Engineer of Transport Department

Mr LAU Ching-kwong, JP
Deputy Director of Highways

Project Manager of Highways Department (Airport & Port Access)

Mr Joseph W P WONG, JP
Secretary for Education and Manpower

Mr Raymond YOUNG
Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower (2)

Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (Resource Management Unit)

Mr Matthew K C CHEUNG, JP
Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower (1)

Ms Esther LEUNG
Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (Labour Division)

Mrs Carrie YAU, JP
Director of Administration

Mr Gordon SIU, JP
Head, Central Policy Unit

Deputy Head, Central Policy Unit

Clerk in attendance :

Ms LEUNG Siu-kum
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)2

Staff in attendance :

Ms Pauline NG
Assistant Secretary General 1

Ms Anita SIT
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)8

EC(97-98)56Proposed creation of a permanent post of Chief Architect (D1) in the Architectural Services Department to cope with the scale and complexity of the additional works brought about by the School Improvement Programme

Members in general agreed with the need for a new Chief Architect (CA) post to oversee the school improvement works. Some members however expressed strong reservation on the need to create a permanent post given that the works under the School Improvement Programme (SIP) were scheduled for completion by 2004. Members also noted that a review of the continued need for the post would be conducted in early 2003. A member suggested that a supernumerary post should be created in the circumstances.

2. In response, the Deputy Director of Architectural Services (DD Arch S) advised that although the SIP works were scheduled for completion by 2004, it was envisaged that school improvement works would become a regular work area of the Architectural Services Department. Apart from the regular maintenance works for new and existing schools, other new improvement works would come on stream as the Government was making continuous efforts to improve the general environment and facility provisions for schools, such as the provision of air-conditioners and computer facilities and the improvements in fire safety facilities. Furthermore, as a substantial number of new schools were to be built in the years to come under the Whole-day Primary School Programme and to cope with the increasing student population, these new schools would likely be included into a future phase of the SIP or another school improvement project. Therefore, the work on school improvement would continue to be heavy and thus required a permanent CA to take charge. He also explained that the proposed arrangement would enable the department to fill the post substantively, as a prolonged acting appointment might give rise to difficulties in maintaining continuity and retention of expertise.

3. Having noted the Administration's explanation, some members were still unconvinced that the post should be created on a permanent basis. A member pointed out that the creation of permanent or supernumerary posts should be based on the guiding principles which the Administration had explained to the Subcommittee on quite a number of occasions. Another member however expressed his support for creation of a permanent post in view of the Administration's view on staff retention problem.

4. The Deputy Secretary for the Treasury admitted that the paper did give the impression that the job was required only for a defined time span. She however explained that the department had reasons to seek a permanent post in view of the permanent nature of the works involved and staff morale. She suggested that the proposal be deferred to enable the Administration to further examine the issue and put the paper to the Subcommittee again at a subsequent meeting.

5. The proposal was withdrawn by the Administration.

EC(97-98)61Proposed retention of a supernumerary post of Chief Architect (D1) in the Architectural Services Department up to 31 March 1999 to assist the Governing Council of the Hong Kong Institute of Education in overseeing the development of the Institute's campus in Tai Po

6. On the adequacy of the retention period which would lapse before the end of the defects liability periods for some of the construction works, DD Arch S explained that the project comprised four parts and the works on the main academic and administration buildings and on the amenities complex were the most complicated parts. The defect liability periods for these works would end in November 1998 and January 1999 respectively. The proposed extension would enable the responsible CA to oversee these works up to the end of the defect liability periods in respect of these works. Besides, the extension would also be adequate for the CA to resolve all contractual issues and finalise the accounts for the whole project. The works on the student hostels and staff quarters and the Sports Centre were relatively simple, and the residual duties could be taken up by a Senior Architect.

7. As to whether the Government would claim indemnity against the contractors for the delay in the project works, DD Arch S advised that in principle the Government would claim indemnity for any delay in project works. For the works for the amenities complex, the Administration had decided to allow the contractor to complete the works instead of terminating and re-tendering the contract as the latter would be much more costly. The present arrangement did not preclude the Administration from claiming indemnity against the contractor for the delay at a later stage and imposing appropriate penalty such as blacklisting the contractor for future tenders where appropriate. As regards the delay of the works for the student hostels and staff quarters, the Administration had already obtained indemnity from the contractor and the works contract had been terminated and re-tendered. The contractor had also been blacklisted for future tenders. The additional financial commitment due to the re-tendering of the contract had been approved by the Finance Committee (FC).

8. Responding to a member's enquiry, DD Arch S assured that the proposed extension of the CA supernumerary post would not result in any increase in the project cost. However, he could not confirm whether further increase in the overall project cost would be needed, as the last part of the project covering the works for the Sports Centre had not started. Notwithstanding this, based on the existing information, further increase in the project estimate was unlikely.

9. A member enquired about the problem of insufficient manpower for the works for the students hostels and staff quarters mentioned in the paper. DD Arch S informed members that the problem arised from the money disputes between the main contractor and the subcontractors, and the supply of specialised electrical and mechanical workers was hampered. In order to enable the works to proceed without re-tendering, the Architectural Services Department had assisted in the mediation of the dispute between the parties concerned.

10. The item was voted on and endorsed.

EC(97-98)65Proposed retention of the following supernumerary posts to handle outstanding works, claims, disputes, contract finalisation and transport matters pertaining to the Airport Core Programme and the airport-related works -

Transport Department
(up to 30 September 1998)

1 Government Engineer (D2)
1 Chief Engineer (D1)

Highways Department
(up to 31 December 1998)

1 Government Engineer (D2)
1 Chief Engineer (D1)

(up to 31 March 1999)
2 Chief Engineers (D1)

11. Addressing some member's concern about the adequacy of the extension periods for some of the posts, the Administration provided the following information:

  1. The proposed extension for the Government Engineer/Lantau Fixed Crossing post up to 31 December 1998 was adequate as the extension was required to finalise an arbitration case on the Lantau Fixed Crossing project, which was deferred from January to June 1998 and involved claims totalling more than $1 billion. The residual matters could be handled by a less senior officer.

  2. The three-month extension period for the Government Engineer/Port and Airport Development and the Chief Engineer/ Port and Airport Development was adequate for the two officers to assess and handle any likely major problems during the initial period of operation of the new roads and transport facilities for the new airport.

12. A member expressed concern about the large number of claims pertinent to the Airport Core Programme (ACP) projects and enquired about the causes for the claims. The Principal Assistant Secretary for Works explained that it was common for contractors to claim for compensations in the course of contract works for changes in work requirements or other circumstances for protecting their own interests. The Government however would have to make its own assessment on those claims according to the contract conditions with the aim of protecting Government's interests. For the ACP projects, most of the claims had been resolved by mediation without resorting to litigation. The member urged the responsible officers to make every effort to protect Government's interests in handling the contractors’ claims.

13. As to the extent of completion of the Ting Kau Bridge by April 1998, the Deputy Director of Highways advised that by that time, the contract works would have been completed. He assured that the Bridge could be commissioned by late April or early May 1998.

14. The item was voted on and endorsed.

EC(97-98)62Proposed creation of two permanent posts of one Administrative Officer Staff Grade B (D3) and one Senior Principal Executive Officer (D2) in the Education and Manpower Bureau of the Government Secretariat with effect from 1 March 1998 to cope with the workload arising from the growing complexity and volume of work on school education, including the work arising from the recently established Quality Education Fund

15. Noting that the existing supernumerary Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower (DS/EM)(3) post was only created on 13 October 1997, a member asked the Administration to consider extending the supernumerary post to allow more time to ascertain the need for a permanent post. He pointed out that after the various initiatives on school education had taken off, the responsibilities of the proposed post might not be as heavy and could thus be taken over by a less senior officer instead.

16. In response, the Secretary for Education and Manpower (SEM) affirmed the need for the post on a permanent basis to provide the necessary directorate support to cope with the substantial increase in volume and complexity of school education work arising from the various new initiatives announced by the Chief Executive in his Policy Address. These new initiatives needed to be taken forward in the coming few years and to be monitored in the long term with a view to achieving both medium and long term targets. He remarked that the level of complexity of the work areas concerned and the co-ordinating and steering role of the incumbent necessitated the post to be pitched at the Deputy Secretary level.

17. In response to a question on the different ranking of the Deputy Secretary posts in the Education and Manpower Bureau, SEM said that the ranking of a post reflected the level of complexity of the duties concerned and not the number of divisions it managed. In the present case, the new initiatives on school education had given rise to a very substantial increase in the workload of the Bureau, which rendered the need for an additional directorate officer at the D3 level.

18. Responding to a member's enquiry about the coverage of the educational reviews under the charge of DS/EM (2) in particular the review of the Academic Aptitude Test, SEM advised that the educational reviews covered a wide spectrum of issues, including the interface of the various stages of education and the related examination systems. The Board of Education had completed a review of the Academic Aptitude Test, and the review would be further examined by the Education Commission.

19. On the responsibility of the DS/EM(3) post in supervising the school building programme, SEM elaborated that the Chief Executive had pledged to provide whole-day primary schooling for 60% students by the 2002-03 school year. This involved the building of 75 additional schools. DS/EM(3) was responsible for ensuring that the progress of the school building programme would achieve this target. This in turn required DS/EM(3) to play an important steering and co-ordinating role in enlisting the rapport of various bureaux and departments involved. Furthermore, the Chief Executive had also announced that the ultimate objective was to provide whole-day primary schooling for all students. The incumbent DS/EM(3) was now liaising with relevant bureaux and departments to examine the availability of land and other resources with a view to drawing up a school building programme for achieving this target.

20. The item was voted on and endorsed.

EC(97-98)63Proposed creation of a permanent post of Administrative Officer Staff Grade C (D2) in the Education and Manpower Bureau of the Government Secretariat with effect from 1 April 1998 to cope with the increasing workload in respect of human resource development and other related issues

21. In response to a member's question on the shortage of labour in the clothing and textile industry, DS/EM (1) explained that in recent years, a number of employers had expressed difficulty in recruiting sufficient workers for the industry. He explained that while many clothing and textile companies had moved their production to the Mainland, some had to maintain their production plants in Hong Kong because of the restrictions laid down in the "Country of Origin" rules. The Government had set up the Working Group on Training and Retraining for the Textiles and Clothing Industry to examine the labour shortage problem and organised relevant training courses through the Clothing Industry Training Authority. So far, the programme had been successful in enabling some retrainees to find jobs after retraining.

22. The item was voted on and endorsed.

EC(97-98)64Proposed retention of a supernumerary post of Senior Principal Executive Officer (D2) in the Education and Manpower Bureau of the Government Secretariat up to 28 February 1999 to enable the continued secondment of a suitable officer to the Employees Retraining Board

23. DS/EM (1) advised in response to a member that the Employees Retraining Board would require the continued service of the existing incumbent Senior Principal Executive Officer for another 12 months to fill the Senior Deputy Executive Director post, so as to facilitate the smooth implementation of the major recommendations arising from the review of the Employees Retraining Scheme. The officer's management expertise and experience in the general administration and financial management, including office computerization was particularly relevant in this regard. As for the Executive Director post, it would be filled by way of an open recruitment exercise, during the latter half of 1998.

24. The item was voted on and endorsed.

EC(97-98)66Proposed creation of the following supernumerary posts for three years from 1 March 1998 to 28 February 2001 in the Central Policy Unit under the Offices of the Chief Secretary for Administration and the Financial Secretary of the Government Secretariat -

  1. 1 Director of Bureau (D8) to bring the organisation of the Unit in line with the existing situation;

  2. 1 Administrative Officer Staff Grade C (D2) to enhance support for the increased level of research activities; and

  3. 1 Administrative Officer Staff Grade B (D3) and 1 Government Town Planner (D2) to provide secretariat support for the Commission on Strategic Development

25. In reply to a member's question on the work of the Commission on Strategic Development to which the Central Policy Unit (CPU) would provide secretariat support, the Head, Central Policy Unit (H/CPU) advised that the first meeting of the Commission would be held in February 1998. The Commission would first consider its work procedures and its future meeting schedule. The Commission's remit was to examine the direction and potential for Hong Kong's further development in the long term. The timeframe of its studies would stretch over 10 to 50 years and the scope of these studies would not therefore overlap with those conducted by individual bureaux or departments. In conducting its studies, the CPU would seek information and advice from experts, both local or overseas, on the relevant subjects and analyse the impact of worldwide development trends on Hong Kong, the Mainland, and other economic regions in close relationship with Hong Kong. On the basis of the findings of its studies, the Commission might refer the issue back to the relevant bureaux to review the policies within their own portfolios, with necessary assistance provided by the CPU. Any changes in Government policies would need to be submitted to the Executive Council for a decision.

26. A member enquired about the role of the CPU in providing advice to the Chief Executive (CE), the Chief Secretary for Administration (CS) and the Financial Secretary (FS). H/CPU advised that in normal situations, CE, CS and FS would seek advice from the bureaux or departments within the Administration, or from outside consultants or experts, as appropriate. However, CE, CS or FS might in some cases require a second opinion and the role of CPU would come into play. This second opinion might or might not be fully in agreement with the advice given to the Administration, but it provided an alternative source of advice on the subject.

27. In reply to a member, H/CPU assured that in examining any complex policy issues, the Unit would consult widely with the various bodies and sectors of the community as set out in paragraph 4 of the paper before coming up with an advice.

28. Regarding the reasons for creating civil service posts to assist the Director of Bureau, the Deputy Head/CPU explained that there were both civil servants and non-civil servants in the establishment of the CPU. The non-civil servants were mainly full-time members recruited from the private sector with expertise in specific areas. Their function was to co-ordinate the studies on specific subjects according to their expertise. As regards the civil service posts under this proposal, their tasks involved a lot of liaison and collaboration with government bureaux and departments and the posts should therefore be filled by civil servants who were more familiar with the operation of the government.

29. A member noted that the present arrangement of creating a supernumerary Director of Bureau post was to accommodate a civil servant for undertaking work originally performed by a non-civil servant. He remarked that, as he had pointed out on previous occasions, the Administration should consider creating a 'post' rather than providing funds for an "appointment" in accommodating whatever persons found appropriate for the post. He cautioned that without a post, it would be difficult to require the incumbent to abide by the civil service rules and regulations during the course of employment. Whether the post should be filled by a civil servant or an outsider was a separate matter to be considered by the Administration on the basis on the nature of the duties involved.

30. Another member stressed that he had no objection in principle to seconding a civil servant to head the CPU as a temporary arrangement, but he considered it more appropriate for the Head of CPU to be a non-civil servant in view of the functions of the CPU. As some Members had already made this point when the subject was discussed in the Public Service Panel, he did not wish to repeat the deliberations in this Subcommittee.

31. The item was voted on and endorsed.

32. The Subcommittee was adjourned at 3:50 pm.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
26 February 1998