LC Paper No. ESC47/98-99
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref : CB1/F/3/2

Establishment Subcommittee of the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council
Minutes of the eighth meeting held at the Legislative Council Chamber on Thursday, 11 February 1999, at 4:30 pm

Members present :

Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong (Chairman)
Hon NG Leung-sing (Deputy Chairman)
Hon Cyd HO Sau-lan
Hon Michael HO Mun-ka
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
Hon Bernard CHAN
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Hon Jasper TSANG Yok-sing, JP
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing, JP
Hon CHOY So-yuk

Members absent :

Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, JP
Dr Hon David LI Kwok-po, JP
Hon Margaret NG
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW LIANG Shuk-yee, JP
Hon MA Fung-kwok
Hon CHAN Kwok-keung
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP

Public officers attending :

Mrs Carrie LAM, JP
Deputy Secretary for the Treasury

Deputy Secretary for the Civil Service

Principal Executive Officer (General),
Finance Bureau

Mr Kevin HO, JP
Deputy Secretary for Transport

Mr LEUNG Kwok-sun, JP
Director of Highways

Mr MAK Chai-kwong
Government Engineer/Railway Development,
Highways Department

Project Manager/Major Works,
Highways Department

Mr WONG Chun-wai
Government Engineer/Major Works (1),
Highways Department

Mr Raymond YOUNG
Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower

Mrs Fanny LAW, JP
Director of Education

Mr Anthony TONG, JP
Deputy Director of Education

Mr Arthur HO
Deputy Secretary for Economic Services

Mr Howard LEE
Principal Assistant Secretary for Economic
Services (New Airport)

Principal Assistant Secretary for Economic Services (B)

Director of the Hong Kong Observatory

Assistant Director of the Hong Kong Observatory

Mr LAU Kwok-choi
Principal Assistant Secretary for Works

Principal Government Civil Engineer,
Civil Engineering Department

Mr TIN Hon-wai
Principal Assistant Secretary for Housing

Mr Howard CHAN
Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning,
Environment and Lands

Mr Elvis W K AU
Assistant Director of Environmental Protection

Mr TAM Po-yiu
Assistant Director of Planning

Clerk in attendance :

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

Staff in attendance :

Ms Anita SIT
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)8
EC(98-99)26Proposed creation of three supernumerary posts, one Principal Government Engineer (D3) for a period of two years and two Chief Engineers (D1) for a period of six years to head the Railway Development Office and its new Railway Division (2) and Technical Services Division in the Highways Department

At the Chairman's request, the Deputy Secretary for Transport introduced the supplementary information note on "Run-down of Airport Core Programme (ACP) Posts in Highways Department" tabled at the meeting. He pointed out that as all the posts created in the Highways Department (HyD) specifically for ACP projects some years ago would lapse by April 2000, it was necessary to create some other new posts in HyD to plan and implement the committed railway and highway projects in the coming five to six years. He stressed that the responsibilities placed on HyD for the committed railway and highway projects would be even heavier than those for the ACP projects, and this was partly because HyD would be responsible for the co-ordination of the committed railway projects, a role similar to that of the New Airport Projects Co-ordination Office for the ACP projects. It was envisaged that considerable interfacing problems would be encountered in the course of planning and construction, as quite a significant proportion of the project works would take place in the vicinity of other major development projects.

2. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong said that Members of the Democratic Party (DP) were in support of this item and item EC(98-99)27.

3. The item was voted on and endorsed.

EC(98-99)27Proposed creation of three supernumerary posts, one Government Engineer (D2) and two Chief Engineers (D1) for a period of six years to head a new office in the Major Works Project Management Office and a new division responsible for a package of major highway projects in the Highways Department

4. The item was voted on and endorsed.

EC(98-99)28Proposed creation of one supernumerary post of Administrative Officer Staff Grade B (D3) in the Education Department for a period of two years with effect from 1 April 1999 to provide strategic support for planning and managing the reform of Education Department

5. Members noted that this proposal had been discussed by the Education Panel.

6. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong said that Members of DP were in support of the proposal on account of the need to provide adequate directorate support for the planning and implementation of the reform of the Education Department (ED).

7. Addressing the concern about possible resistance within ED to changes pertinent to the reform, the Director of Education advised that a successful reform of ED would require the concerted efforts of ED staff, and indeed ED staff in general recognised the need for a reform of the Department and shared the overall direction of the reform as set out in the paper. The reform would be a long term process and at the initial stage, some staff in ED might have reservation on the pace and ways of change. It was however envisaged that through effective internal communication, the Department would be able to garner the support of more staff as the reform proceeded. In this regard, the Implementation Team for the reform, with which the present proposal was concerned, would play the key co-ordination and liaison role for the reform internally and externally. In particular, it would enlist the participation of various units within the Department in formulating the reform strategies and detailed proposals.

8. The item was voted on and endorsed.

EC(98-99)29Proposed retention of one supernumerary post of Administrative Officer Staff Grade C (D2) in the Economic Services Bureau of the Government Secretariat for a period of one year with effect from 1 April 1999 to deal with policy matters relating to civil aviation and the new airport

9. The Chairman declared his interest as a member of the Airport Authority (AA) Board and invited Mr NG Leung-sing, Deputy Chairman, to chair the discussion of this item. Mr NG took the chair.

10. Miss Emily LAU sought clarification on how the Finance Bureau (FB) and the Civil Service Bureau (CSB) had considered staffing proposals, including the present one, in the light of the Enhanced Productivity Programme (EPP) announced by the Chief Executive (CE) in his 1998 Policy Address. In reply, the Deputy Secretary for the Treasury (DS/Tsy) advised that as pledged at the beginning of the current legislative session, FB and CSB had scrutinised carefully each and every staffing proposal, including those already with provisions made in the approved Estimates, to ensure that all proposals were well justified. To enhance the implementation of EPP, DS/Tsy informed members that the Financial Secretary would in his coming Budget Speech reveal the concrete plans on how individual bureaux and departments would deliver new or improved services without additional financial resources in 1999/2000 and work towards the target of achieving productivity gains amounting to 5% of their operating expenditure by the year 2002.

11. Referring to the duties of the Principal Assistant Secretary for Economic Services (New Airport) (PAS(ES)NA), Miss Cyd HO enquired in what manner would PAS(ES)NA exert influence over AA in relation to various reviews, such as AA's organisation, staffing and operational procedures, on behalf of Economic Services Bureau (ESB). In reply, the Deputy Secretary for Economic Services (DS/ES) advised that decisions on these issues were made by the AA Board whose membership included the Secretary for Economic Services (SES) and other Government officials. PAS(ES)NA would assist SES in examining the proposals put before the AA Board.

12. Responding to Miss Emily LAU's query on PAS(ES)NA's duty to prepare briefs and brief visitors on the new airport, DS/ES advised that this duty formed only a minor part of the job portfolio of PAS(ES)NA, and its objective was to introduce the new airport as a major infrastructure facility of Hong Kong to counterpart airport and civil aviation authorities of other jurisdictions. Miss LAU expressed doubt on the need to designate such a senior official for this duty and urged the Administration to review the arrangement to ensure that staffing resources were deployed in a cost-effective manner.

13. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong pointed out that given the recent increase in directorate staff in ESB to take up matters on tourism, there should be sufficient directorate capacity in ESB to absorb the work of the PAS(ES)NA post. He also reiterated his concern about the ranking of the existing Deputy Secretary for Economic Services (1) (DS/ES(1)) post at the D4 level as tourism, a major part of its responsibilities, had already been relieved of the post.

14. In response, DS/ES advised that ESB was fully aware of the need to review its staffing level in the light of changing circumstances, and thus had undertaken to conduct a review in a year's time. As far as the PAS(ES)NA post was concerned, it was created in 1990 on a supernumerary basis and all along had been heavily engaged in airport related duties. Since approval was given in February 1998 for the PAS(ES)NA post to be extended to 31 March 1999, two major changes affecting the work schedule of the post had arisen -

  1. three inquiries had been conducted into the problems relating to the opening of the new airport, resulting in the need to implement measures to improve the operation of the new airport having regard to the comments and recommendations made in the inquiry reports; and

  2. PAS(ES)NA had taken up the duties relating to civil aviation in March 1998 from another Principal Assistant Secretary (PAS) in ESB to enable the latter to concentrate on the work on tourism.

15.DS/ES stressed that the work relating to the new airport and civil aviation would continue to be heavy in the near future. Various alternatives of staff deployment had been explored but had been found not feasible. Hence, there was a continued need to have a dedicated PAS to deal with policy matters relating to the new airport and civil aviation at least in the coming year.

16. As regards the ranking of the DS/ES(1) post, he advised that though being relieved of the tourism schedule, the post would be fully utilised after absorbing the increasing workload of the remaining responsibilities of DS/ES(1) on energy, agriculture and fisheries, postal services and observatory. He added that the creation of the Tourism Office had no direct effect on PAS(ES)NA, as PAS(ES)NA did not work under DS/ES(1).

17. The Deputy Chairman enquired whether the proposed one-year extension was sufficient for the incumbent of the PAS(ES)NA post to handle the work in relation to the new airport, particularly given the delay in the second runway project. DS/ES advised that the second runway was scheduled for commissioning in August 1999. PAS(ES)NA would need to co-ordinate the input of AA, the Administration and other concerned parties on the preparatory work for the opening. He remarked that apart from this duty, PAS(ES)NA was also responsible for a number of other airport and civil aviation duties which would extend over the proposed one-year period. It was however considered appropriate to retain the post for one year at this stage pending a review of ESB's workload and its staffing level to be carried out in one year's time.

18. DS/Tsy confirmed that FB and CSB had considered the proposed one-year extension of the PAS(ES)NA post justified on account of the need to provide adequate policy input for the work on airport and civil aviation related matters, pending completion of the aforesaid staffing review of ESB in one year's time. She further explained that the need to review the directorate staffing level of ESB had arisen from changes to ESB's policy portfolio over the past year and in the coming year. These changes included the transfer of the policy area of telecommunications from ESB to the newly established Information Technology and Broadcasting Bureau in April 1998, the establishment of a new Tourism Office within ESB in late 1998 upon funding approval by the Finance Committee, and the proposed transfer of the policy area of agriculture and fisheries to another policy bureau in the event of dissolution of the two Municipal Councils.

19. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong maintained that the proposed one-year extension was not justified, given that ESB had already been provided with substantial additional staffing resources for the tourism schedule and that the whole public sector must endeavour to save and increase productivity in the face of the current economic difficulties. However, to allow sufficient time for ESB to make the necessary redeployment arrangements, he suggested that the PAS(ES)NA post be extended for six months only by the Administration under delegated authority. In response, DS/Tsy clarified that while the Administration had the delegated authority to create a supernumerary new directorate post for a period not exceeding six months, it had no delegated authority to approve extension of an existing supernumerary directorate post. She advised that if members had a strong view that the post should only be retained for six months, it would be up to the ESB to decide whether redeployment of staff resources could possibly be executed in such a short period of time.

20. DS/ES reiterated that before putting up the proposal, ESB had thoroughly reviewed the work requirements and the feasibility of deploying other PASs to absorb the workload of PAS(ES)NA. To elucidate, he advised that ESB was facing heavy work demand on various fronts including issues relating to consumer prices for fuels, the review of ESB's policy responsibility on food supply and agriculture and fisheries, and the need to take forward various legislative and policy initiatives to maintain Hong Kong's status as an international and regional civil aviation centre. In view of the heavy work requirements and the fact that the aforesaid review on ESB's staffing level would need to tie in with the proposed transfer of the policy responsibility on agriculture and fisheries, details of which had not been confirmed, a six-month extension for the PAS(ES)NA post would definitely be insufficient. Nevertheless, in view of members’ strong reservation on the proposed one-year extension, he agreed that the duration of the post be extended for nine months at this stage.

21. DS/Tsy advised that the Administration would revise the proposal as follows-

    "To retain the supernumerary post of Administrative Officer Staff Grade C, which had been designated as PAS(ES)NA, for nine months from 1 April 1999 to 31 December 1999".

22. The proposal, as revised, was voted on and endorsed. Miss Emily LAU requested to put on record that Members of the Frontier had reservation on the proposal.

EC(98-99)30 Proposed retention of one supernumerary post of Assistant Director of the Hong Kong Observatory (D2) in the Hong Kong Observatory for a period of one year with effect from 1 April 1999 to ensure the smooth operation of meteorological systems for the second runway and the Backup Air Traffic Control Complex, and to undertake further development of the existing meteorological systems at the airport

23. While expressing support for the proposal on account of the need to ensure smooth operation of meteorological facilities for the airport upon opening of the second runway, Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong commented that the suggestion of a possible long term need for an Assistant Director (AD) to maintain aviation meteorological services as described in paragraph 13 of the discussion paper was irrelevant to the present proposal. In response, the Director of the Hong Kong Observatory (D/HKO) said that the inclusion of this paragraph was intended to provide a more complete picture of the staffing requirement for aviation meteorological services in the long term. DS/Tsy confirmed that this suggestion of a possible AD post would not bind members to agree to a future proposal on such a post.

24. In relation to Miss Emily LAU's enquiry about the implications of the delay in the second runway project on the staffing resources of other Government departments, the Administration agreed to provide a written reply shortly after this meeting.


25. On the concern about the posts created for providing aviation meteorological services at the Kai Tak Airport in the transitional period preceding the opening of the new airport, D/HKO advised that those posts had lapsed upon the close of the Kai Tak Airport.

26. The item was voted on and endorsed.

EC(98-99)31 Proposed redeployment of seven permanent posts of three Government Engineer (D2) and four Chief Engineer (D1) in the Civil Engineering Department to effect the necessary redistribution of responsibilities; and creation of one permanent post of Chief Engineer (D1) to head a new Housing Sites Division

27. The item was voted on and endorsed.

EC(98-99)32Proposed creation of one permanent post of Principal Environmental Protection Officer (D1) in the Environmental Assessment and Noise Division of the Environmental Protection Department for housing related duties

28. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong said that Members of DP were gravely concerned about the existing organisational structure of the Environmental Protection Department (EPD), and the rapid expansion of the Department's establishment in recent years. He pointed out that there had been continuous splitting up of the various units in EPD on both functional and regional basis over recent years. Referring to the existing and proposed organisation charts in the paper, he commented that the present proposal again involved upgrading the Housing Supply Unit under the Urban Assessment Group to a new Housing Supply Group. In view of the confusion and unjustifiable branching out of units in the existing organisational structure of EPD, Members of DP could not support the present proposal and considered that an overhaul of the Department's organisational structure was urgently required.

29. Regarding the organisational structure of EPD, Deputy Secretary for Civil Service (DS/CS) advised that the existing organisational structure of EPD was devised in 1996 having regard to the expertise required to deal with the range of problems that fell under EPD's purview. It had undergone the proper establishment vetting process, and essentially, each and every directorate post had been approved for creation by the Finance Committee. In fact, there were other Government departments having a similar structure as that of EPD. While Civil Service Bureau (CSB) was prepared to review the structure of a department when the circumstances warranted, CSB was satisfied that the existing organisational structure of EPD was appropriate to meet the present-day service demand of the community. As regards the present proposal, DS/CS confirmed that CSB had scrutinised carefully the work requirements against the existing staffing level and was satisfied that the increased responsibilities arising from the long term housing programme could not be absorbed by the existing directorate capacity of EPD.

30. Regarding the division of responsibilities among the existing four groups in the Environmental Assessment and Noise (EAN) Division, the Assistant Director of Environmental Protection (AD/EP) explained that the Division was responsible for providing environmental advice for relevant authorities and parties on land-use planning proposals, territorial studies and housing and infrastructure projects. It also oversaw the implementation of the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance (EIAO) and performed the statutory functions of EPD stipulated under the EIAO. Except for the Noise Management and Policy Group, each of the other three groups of the Division was responsible for the co-ordination of a major expertise function and at the same time undertook the executive functions of the Division at the sub-regional level.

31. On the justifications for the proposed Principal Environmental Protection Officer (PEPO) post, AD/EP advised that the workload and complexity of the work on providing environmental advice on new housing sites and housing project proposals had increased enormously since the announcement of the long term housing programme by the Chief Executive in his 1997 Policy Address. The number of these proposals had increased two-fold. On another front, with the full implementation of the EIAO in April 1998, the demand for directorate input on dealing with the statutory process under the EIAO had increased substantially. Against these developments, it was found necessary to create PEPO to be dedicated to the handling of housing proposals and to head a new Housing Supply Group in the EAN Division.

32. Pointing out that there were already established policies and guidelines to follow in providing environmental advice, Mr Michael HO questioned whether it would be more appropriate to create junior posts, instead of a PEPO post, to cope with the increased workload under the housing proposals. In response, AD/EP elaborated that given the need to accelerate housing projects, there had been calls from various parties including the Legislative Council, private developers and relevant Government bureaux/departments for EPD to designate officers of sufficient seniority to provide prompt advice on environmental issues at various important meetings on housing supply. Moreover, there was an increasing number of housing proposals involving complicated environmental problems that required unique solutions. Under these circumstances, EPD found it necessary to have a dedicated directorate officer who would possess the required professional expertise as well as the directorate authority to shoulder the responsibilities arising from the accelerated housing programme. Mr Michael HO remained unconvinced of the need for a directorate officer to handle housing proposals, despite an increase in the work quantity at the policy execution level.

33. Referring to the proposed organisation chart in enclosure 4, Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong pointed out that the new Housing Supply Group would have an establishment of only 12 non-directorate staff, and queried if such a small unit should justify a unit head at the directorate level. Besides, he was not convinced that the existing PEPO of the Urban Assessment Group, who presently headed the Housing Supply Unit, would not have the capacity to provide directorate support for handling housing proposals. He shared Mr Michael HO's view that the increased workload arising from the long term housing programme should only justify additional non-directorate posts.

34. As regards the need for a directorate officer to represent EPD in meetings on housing supply matters, DS/Tsy clarified that a Steering Committee on Land Supply for Housing (HOUSCOM) chaired by Financial Secretary (FS) had been set up in 1997 to examine ways to accelerate housing production to meet the long term housing target. The HOUSCOM had noticed that despite numerous inter-departmental meetings held, conflicts impeding the speedy progress of housing projects remained unresolved. FS therefore instructed concerned department heads to ensure that their representatives should be knowledgeable of the department's position and be able to make decisions on behalf of the department at the inter-departmental meetings. If a decision required could not be reached at such meetings, the department's representative should seek advice/instruction from the department head immediately after meetings to avoid causing unnecessary delay to the decision-making process.

35. Miss Emily LAU said that she was gravely disappointed with the achievements made by EPD over the years despite the increasing amount of resources allocated to the department. She considered that it would not be cost-effective to continue to increase posts in EPD without a fundamental change to the Government's approach to environmental protection. As such, she would not support this proposal and would like to urge the Administration to inquire into the reasons for the disappointing performance of EPD in various environmental protection work.

36. Referring to the job description of the proposed PEPO post, Mr NG Leung-sing enquired on how the PEPO would contribute to the acceleration of housing projects. In reply, AD/EP advised that the PEPO would provide professional support to EPD's directors attending inter-departmental meetings to make decisions on environmental issues on the spot. Mr NG however expressed reservation on the capability of the proposed PEPO to help provide prompt environmental solutions.

37. The item was voted on and rejected.

EC(98-99)33 Proposed creation of one permanent post of Chief Town Planner (D1) to head a Housing Task Force in the Planning Department

38.In reply to Miss Emily LAU's enquiry about the requirement of 24 non-directorate staff, in addition to the proposed Chief Town Planner (CTP) post, for setting up the Housing Task Force (HTF) in the Planning Department, the Assistant Director of Planning (AD/P) clarified that to cope with the work requirements arising from the long term housing production target, 24 non-directorate posts (comprising 21 professional posts and 3 technical and secretarial posts) had been created to support the work of the HTF. Of these 24 posts, nine were redeployed from other units of the New Territories and Metro District Planning Divisions and the remaining 15 posts were new posts created earlier on. AD/P highlighted that the proposed CTP would head the HTF and would provide strategic planning input particularly on the identification and delivery of sites for housing development. The incumbent would also play a proactive role in giving planning advice to private developers and concerned Government bodies with a view to expediting the planning process of housing projects.

39. In relation to Miss Emily LAU's query on whether the small set-up of the HTF should justify a unit head at the directorate level, DS/CS clarified that creation of a directorate post was not determined solely by the number of non-directorate staff to be supervised, but the whole range of duties required of the post.

40. The item was voted on and endorsed. Miss Emily LAU expressed reservation on the item.

41. The Subcommittee was adjourned at 6:30 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
11 March 1999