Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. ESC 25
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref : CB1/F/3/2

Establishment Subcommittee of the
Provisional Legislative Council

Minutes of the fifth meeting held at the Legislative Council Chamber on Wednesday, 22 October 1997, at 10:45 am

Members present:

Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong (Chairman)
Hon NG Leung-sing (Deputy Chairman)
Hon WONG Siu-yee
Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, JP
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon Mrs Peggy LAM, JP
Hon Henry WU
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon TSANG Yok-sing
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon IP Kwok-him
Hon CHENG Yiu-tong
Hon CHOY So-yuk

Members absent :

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 Kennedy WONG Ying-ho
Dr Hon Charles YEUNG Chun-kam
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
Hon Paul CHENG Ming-fun, JP
Hon Timothy FOK Tsun-ting

Public officers attending :

Mrs Carrie LAM, JP
Deputy Secretary for the Treasury

Deputy Secretary for the Civil Service

Mr Patrick HO
Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs

Mrs Betty CHU
Judiciary Secretary

Mr LI Wing
Chief Electoral Officer

Deputy Secretary for Trade and Industry

Mrs Maureen CHAN
Principal Assistant Secretary for Health and Welfare

Deputy Director of Health

Ms Esther LEUNG
Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower

Mr Alfred CHAN, JP
Deputy Commissioner for Labour

Ms Linda SO
Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport

Government Land Agent, Lands Department

Miss Cathy CHU
Principal Assistant Secretary for Security

Assistant Director of Health

Clerk in attendance :

Mrs Vivian KAM
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)5

Staff in attendance :

Ms Pauline NG
Assistant Secretary General 1

Mr Kenneth KWOK
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)8

EC(97-98)24Proposed creation of a supernumerary post of Judge of the Court of First Instance up to 28 September 2000 in the Judiciary to take over the judicial work of a Judge of the Court of First Instance of the High Court who has been appointed as the Chairman of the Electoral Affairs Commission.

On the tenure of appointment of the Chairman of the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) for a period of three years via-a-vis the terms of office of two years of the first Legislative Council (LegCo) of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), the Chief Electoral Officer explained that the Chairman of EAC was required to undertake work even after the first HKSAR LegCo election had taken place, e.g. the submission of a report on the LegCo election to the Chief Executive, and preparation for the next round of elections. The Judiciary Secretary confirmed in response to a member that a District Judge had been appointed as Deputy Judge of the Court of First Instance to fill the supernumerary post.

2.The item was voted on and endorsed.

EC(97-98)25Proposed retention of a supernumerary post of Administrative Officer Staff Grade B1 (D4) in the Civil Service Bureau of the Government Secretariat for the period up to 31 March 2000 in order to enable the continued secondment of a suitable officer to the Hong Kong Export Credit Insurance Corporation.

3.Members noted that the arrangement for seconding a senior officer from the civil service to the Hong Kong Export Credit Insurance Corporation (the Corporation) to serve as its Commissioner had continued for 13 years. Members questioned the genuine efforts put into the recruitment exercises by the Corporation and asked whether it was the wish of the Government to continue with this secondment arrangement since it was stated in the paper that the arrangement had enhanced understanding and co-operation between Government and the Corporation. In response, the Deputy Secretary for Trade and Industry (DS/TI) explained that the proposal to extend the secondment arrangement resulted from a combination of factors, including the unique requirement for the incumbent to possess a sound grasp of the principles and practices of international trade and finance, recent changes in the structure and work of the Corporation following a major review in 1996, and the non-availability of suitable staff from within the Corporation for taking up the post in the immediate future. The option of direct recruitment was not considered feasible as candidates with the requisite knowledge and experience would not be readily available in the market. The Consultant commissioned by the Administration to study the management needs of the Corporation had concluded that it was appropriate for the secondment arrangement to continue for the short term but at the same time had advised that senior managers should be groomed for the position in the long run. The Administration concurred with this view and had put in place systematic training programmes for grooming senior staff within the Corporation so as to enhance their exposure in different areas of work and participation in international conferences. DS/TI assured members that the present arrangement would cease once a suitable candidate was identified. In response to a member's comments, DS/TI said that it was for operational exigency of the Corporation that the secondment arrangement was made and that there was no intention of making use of the secondment arrangement to provide training opportunity for civil servants.

4.In view of the prolonged difficulty experienced in filling the post, members enquired about the possibilities of improving the remuneration package for the post to increase its attractiveness or converting it to a permanent post in the civil service. The Deputy Secretary for the Civil Service (DS/CS) said that the remuneration package would have to be looked at by the Corporation having regard also to resource considerations. As regards the latter suggestion, this would be a matter ultimately for the Corporation to consider after consultation with the relevant bureau. While agreeing with members that secondment was not a permanent solution, DS/CS advised that Civil Service Bureau's role was to examine the circumstances of each case and ensure that reasonable plans had been drawn up for filling the posts concerned. DS/TI supplemented that in view of the nature of the work of the Corporation, it would be more appropriate for the Corporation to be managed in the same way as a private organisation, and the administrative head of the Corporation should not come under the civil service establishment.

5.At members' request, DS/CS undertook to provide information on the secondment of civil servants to quasi non-government organisations for lengthy periods. Admin

6.The item was voted on and endorsed.

EC(97-98)26Proposed creation of two permanent posts of one Senior Principal Executive Officer (D2) and one Principal Executive Officer (D1) offset by the deletion of two permanent posts of one Administrative Officer Staff Grade C (D2) and one Chief Executive Officer (MPS 45-49) in the Department of Health in order to improve departmental administration.

7.The item was voted on and endorsed.

EC(97-98)27Proposed retention of a supernumerary post of Assistant Commissioner for Labour (D2) for the period up to 30 June 1998 in the Labour Department in order to enable the continued secondment of a suitable officer to the Employees Retraining Board.

8.Some members questioned the need to retain the supernumerary post of Executive Director up to 30 June 1998 while the exercise to fill the post substantively had already started in September 1997. They pointed out that two other senior posts of the Employees Retraining Board (ERB), namely the Deputy Executive Director and Senior Deputy Executive Director, were filled by officers seconded from the Education and Manpower Bureau and the Labour Department respectively, and that these officers should be in a position to assist the new Executive Director. Some members also expressed concern about the influence which the Government could exert on ERB and questioned the effectiveness of such arrangements in helping ERB to understand the needs of the market in the retraining of employees.

9.In response, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower explained that the six months' extension was necessary to enable the new incumbent to settle down in the job through a smooth handover period, and in particular to allow continuity in the implementation of the recommendations arising from a recently completed review of the Employees Retraining Scheme. As regards the secondment of the other two public officers, the Senior Deputy Executive Director and the Deputy Executive Director, these were for different purposes and duration. In any event, any supernumerary post could lapse anytime when it was no longer required. The senior deputy post was created in September 1997 for a period of six months for the purpose of assisting the Executive Director in drawing up a series of concrete measures to implement the recommendations arising from the review. This was filled by a Senior Principal Executive Officer from the Education and Manpower Bureau. The post of deputy Executive Director had been filled by a Senior Labour Officer seconded from the Labour Department who possessed extensive experience in labour-related issues, ever since the establishment of ERB in 1992. As regards members' concern about the influence which such senior staff had on ERB, the Deputy Commissioner for Labour (DC for L) assured members that all statutory rights were vested in the ERB and that the seconded staff were only responsible for implementing decisions of ERB.

10.On the latest progress of the recruitment exercise for the post of Executive Director, DC for L advised that an offer of appointment would likely be made after the interview in late 1997.

11.The item was voted on and endorsed.

EC(97-98)28Proposed increase in the ceiling placed on the total notional annual mid-point salary value of all non-directorate posts in the permanent establishment of the Lands Department in 1997-98 from $978,809,000 by $9,201,000 to $988,010,000 to permit the creation of 25 non-directorate posts.

12.The Government Land Agent confirmed in response to a member that, despite the competing demand in the private and the public sectors for professionals in land resumption and licensing and management work, the Administration was confident that suitable candidates could be recruited to fill the 25 non-directorate posts. A review on the need for the posts would be conducted towards completion of the projects.

13.The item was voted on and endorsed.

EC(97-98)29Proposed retention of a supernumerary post of Principal Executive Officer (D1) in the Department of Health in the 1998-99 draft Estimates to facilitate the continued secondment of a Principal Executive Officer to the Society for the Aid and Rehabilitation of Drug Abusers as Executive Director.

14.Mrs Peggy LAM declared interest as a Board member of the Society for the Aid and Rehabilitation of Drug Abusers (SARDA).

15.Members were dissatisfied with the inability of SARDA in recruiting a candidate to fill the post of Executive Director for over 15 years and the prolonged secondment of civil servants to fill the post. They enquired about the attributes/qualities that were expected from the Executive Director of SARDA and how the recruitment/interview method could be improved to ensure a greater chance of appointing a suitable person. They also suggested splitting up the specialist and generalist duties of the post concerned and reviewing the remuneration package for the Executive Director.

16.The Principal Assistant Secretary for Security (PAS/S) said that senior management experience and good leadership were, among other attributes, required from the Executive Director. But as these were only broad requirements and taking into account the past recruitment difficulties, the Administration had commissioned an independent consultancy study in July 1997 to identify, inter alia, the core competencies required from the Executive Director and the best means for filling the post such as the use of an external search agency. SARDA and the Administration were of the view that it would be in SARDA's interest to have its own Executive Director, who could then provide the continuity to implement service improvements for the organisation and to carry out succession planning. The secondment arrangement was only an interim measure and the long-term goal was for internal promotion to fill the post. The ranking of the Executive Director post at D1 and the associated remuneration package was considered appropriate by the Administration, having regard to the number of staff in SARDA and its scope of services. In response to a member's suggestion for providing a copy of the consultants' report to the Public Services Panel for reference, PAS/S replied that the Administration had no problem to make public the results of the consultancy study. Admin

17.DS/CS reiterated the Administration's position on the secondment of civil servants to quasi-governmental organisations. Secondments were carefully controlled and the organisations concerned would have to justify each case on its own merits. While public interest was the prime consideration in such secondments, operational needs of the Government would always take priority. DS/CS also pointed out that the number of such secondment cases was not many, and that certain appointment requirements were relaxed where permissible to ease recruitment difficulties. As regards the commissioning of similar consultancy studies and the proposed splitting of the generalist and specialist duties of the post, these would be matters for the organisations concerned to decide.

18.The item was voted on and endorsed.

19.The meeting was adjourned at 11:55 am.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
10 November 1997