on 17 October 1997
ITEM FOR FINANCE COMMITTEE
HEAD 143 - GOVERNMENT SECRETARIAT : CIVIL SERVICE BUREAU
Subhead 700 General other non-recurrent
Members are invited to approve a commitment of $61,067,000 for providing computer equipment and the related training to clerical and secretarial staff for developing them into a multi-skilled workforce.
It is necessary to equip the clerical and secretarial staff with adequate equipment and training in order to develop a multi-skilled general purpose support service within the civil service to improve office efficiency.
2.The Secretary for the Civil Service (SCS) proposes to create a commitment of $61,067,000 for the procurement of computer hardware and software, the provision of the necessary training for clerical and secretarial staff and the setting up of speed testing facilities for assessing the word-processing skills of clerical staff.
3.Traditionally, the duties of clerical and secretarial staff in government departments are clearly demarcated, with typing duties mainly undertaken by Typists and Personal Secretaries, and general clerical support services provided by the clerical grades. These arrangements have inhibited the effective deployment of staff resources. In order to improve office efficiency, SCS proposes -
- to phase out the use of dedicated Typists for typing duties in general offices;
- to develop the clerical grades to cover the whole range of clerical, word-processing and, where necessary, computing duties; and
- to enhance the computing skills of the Personal Secretary grade to improve the provision of secretarial support services.
4.To achieve the above objectives, we need to improve the provision of training and equipment for these staff over the next two to three years, as detailed below -
- Provision of Training
There are some 17 000 staff in the basic ranks of the Clerical Officer and Clerical Assistant grades. Many of them are involved, to varying degrees, in word-processing and/or computing duties but are neither formally trained nor adequately equipped to perform such duties. Given the objective to develop these grades to provide a general purpose support service, the Director of General Grades has reviewed the training needs of these staff in consultation with Heads of Department. He has concluded that 22 450 training places, phased over a period of three years, are required to provide formal training to upgrade the skills of the clerical staff in computer software application. We will, at the same time, require 4 780 such training places to enhance the computing skills of over 4 000 staff in the secretarial grades. The cost of providing such training is estimated to be $10.89 million as detailed at Enclosure 1. We are revising the appointment requirements for these grades with an aim of recruiting candidates possessing word-processing and basic computing skills in future. This will obviate the recurrent need for extending such training to new appointees.
- Provision of Computer Equipment
Clerical staff in general offices are, at present, not adequately equipped to provide an effective word-processing and computing support service in their respective offices. Our survey of departmental operational requirements has revealed the need to provide 1 950 full sets of computer stations and 3 800 software packages to strengthen the provision of desktop computers to enable these staff to effectively discharge their more extensive duties. It is estimated that financial provision of $48.6 million as detailed at Enclosure 2, phased over a period of two years, is required for the procurement of such equipment.
- Provision for Word-Processing Speed Test
At present, we grant an incremental credit to secretarial staff in recognition of their acquisition of higher word-processing and/or shorthand skills. In line with this practice, we will, with effect from 1 April 1998, grant an incremental credit to Assistant Clerical Officers and Clerical Assistants who have attained specific levels of speed in both English and Chinese word-processing skills, subject to the maxima of their pay scales not being exceeded. We need to have an additional speed test room for conducting proficiency tests to assess the skill levels of these staff. It is estimated that $475,000 will be required for the procurement of computer equipment and office furniture in the setting up of the additional testing facilities.
5.The estimated total capital cost of these proposals is $61,067,000 at June 1997 prices, made up as follows-
|(a)||Microcomputer hardware and software|
|(c)||Additional speed test room|
6.The Civil Service Bureau will require one Senior Personal Secretary and one Assistant Clerical Officer to administer the additional word-processing speed tests. The estimated recurrent cost of the staff resources is $537,120 per annum at 1997-98 salary level. Subject to Members' approval of the commitment, we will include these staffing requirements in the 1998-99 Estimates.
7.We envisage that increases in productivity through the development of a multi-skilled general support service would lead to savings in manpower resources in the long run.
8.The Standing Commission on Civil Service Salaries and Conditions of Service has observed that the current restrictive demarcation of duties between secretarial and clerical staff in the civil service is outdated and not conducive to the effective deployment of manpower resources. With increasing office automation, it is considered necessary for the Government to keep pace with the change of times to modernise existing office practices and staff structures in order to improve the efficiency of general support services.
9.We have completed a detailed review and formulated a comprehensive package of proposals to streamline office practices and rationalise staff structures with a view to developing a more effective office support service. These include -
-phasing out the use of Typists in general offices;
-phasing out the Office Assistant grade;
-helping clerical and secretarial staff to improve their word-processing and computing skills for an enhanced role in providing office support services;
-recognising improved productivity through the grant of incremental credit to secretarial and clerical staff, where appropriate; and
-rationalising the appointment requirements of the secretarial and clerical grades to reflect present day operational needs.
10.At its meeting on 4 September 1997, the Standing Commission endorsed the above proposals for implementation with effect from 1 April 1998.
11.We have fully consulted the staff unions concerned and they are supportive of the proposals. We also briefed the Public Service Panel of the former Legislative Council on the conceptual framework of these proposals on 26 May 1997 and received their general endorsement.
Civil Service Bureau
Enclosure 1 to FCR(97-98)44
Estimated Requirement of Computer Training for Clerical and Secretarial Staff
Enclosure 2 to FCR(97-98)44
Estimated requirement for computer equipment/software
|Additional personal computer required to achieve the ratio of three persons per workstation|
|Personal computer required to replace existing workstations which need to be upgraded|
|Provision of software to enhance the capabilities of existing workstations|