LC Paper No. ESC15/98-99
(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 third meeting held at the Legislative Council Chamber on Wednesday, 14 October 1998, at 10:45 am

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 Mrs Selina CHOW LIANG Shuk-yee, JP
Hon MA Fung-kwok
Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
Hon CHAN Kwok-keung
Hon Bernard CHAN
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Hon Jasper TSANG Yok-sing, JP
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung

Members absent :

Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, JP
Dr Hon David LI Kwok-po, JP
Hon Margaret NG
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing, JP
Hon CHOY So-yuk

Public officers attending :
Mrs Carrie LAM, JP
Deputy Secretary for the Treasury

Deputy Secretary for the Civil Service

Principal Executive Officer (General), Finance Bureau

Mrs Rebecca LAI, JP
Deputy Secretary for Financial Services

Miss Vivian LAU
Principal Assistant Secretary for Financial Services

Mr Herman CHO
Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower

Mr LEE Kai-fat, JP
Deputy Commissioner for Labour

Dr LO Wai-kee, JP
Occupational Health Consultant, Labour Department

Mr Kevin HO, JP
Deputy Secretary for Transport

Mr LEUNG Kwok-sun, JP
Director of Highways
Clerk in attendance :
Miss Polly YEUNG
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)3
Staff in attendance :
Ms Anita SIT
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)8
Matters arising from the last meeting

The Deputy Secretary for the Treasury (DS/Tsy) referred to the comment made by Miss Margaret NG at the last meeting that the Administration should review its staffing proposals for implementing work plans arising from the 1997 Policy Address or earlier on in the light of changes in economic conditions and reflect in the relevant paper such changes. She assured members that the Finance Bureau (FB) and the Civil Service Bureau had taken heed of the members' suggestion in scrutinizing all funding proposals for submission to the Finance Committee and its Subcommittees. FB had also requested bureaux and departments to bear this factor in mind when preparing their respective funding proposals.

EC(98-99)7Proposed creation of one supernumerary post of Administrative Officer Staff Grade C (D2) in the Financial Services Bureau of the Government Secretariat for the period up to 31 March 2000 to head the newly-established Financial Infrastructure section

2. A member queried the need for retaining the proposed supernumerary post up to 31 March 2000, bearing in mind the year 2000 (Y2K) problem should have been tackled before the transition to the next millennium. In response, the Deputy Secretary for Financial Services (DS/FS) advised that apart from the urgent task of co-ordinating the efforts of the Government, regulators and the financial industries in tackling the Y2K problem, the officer filling the proposed post would also be responsible for two other projects aiming at enhancing the financial technology infrastructure and developing a well-trained and adaptable workforce for the financial services sector. The Administration would commission consultancy studies to take forward these projects and the duration of the proposed supernumerary post would tie in with the studies. DS/FS added that while the financial services sector as a whole was expected to sail through the millennium smoothly, some follow-up on the Y2K issue was anticipated in the first few months of year 2000.

3. Responding to members' enquiries about the main thrust of the work of the Principal Assistant Secretary (Financial Infrastructure) (PAS(FI)), DS/FS advised that the officer's responsibilities involved a lot of liaison and co-ordination. On the Y2K issue, while the actual system rectification work was to be carried out by the respective organisations, PAS(FI) would facilitate the liaison and co-ordination among these organisations and service the relevant steering committee set up to oversee and co-ordinate the Y2K efforts of the financial services sector. For the consultancy studies on financial technology infrastructure and human resource development, the officer would service the respective steering committees and work closely with the consultants in taking forward the studies.

4. Noting the spectrum of responsibilities of PAS(FI) as detailed in the paper, a member questioned whether an officer from the Administrative Officer (AO) grade would possess the necessary expertise and experience for the job. DS/FS said that since the emphasis of the job was on overall liaison and co-ordination, technical expertise in information technology was not a ust" for the post-holder, and an officer from the AO grade with the appropriate background and calibre should be competent for the post. DS/FS further advised that the present deployment of an officer from the AO grade to take up the supernumerary PAS(FI) post created for six months under delegated authority in May 1998 had proved effective. With the support of the officer, the relevant steering committee had completed an interim report on the Y2K issue, which provided an overview of the work progress of the concerned organisations in tackling the problem. She confirmed that the current incumbent would remain in the post if the present proposal was approved.

5. On behalf of the Democratic Party (DP), Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong expressed support for the proposal. He said that the DP had all along urged the Administration to improve the local financial market system, including enhancing the financial infrastructure and tackling the Y2K problem which were the targets of the present staffing proposal. Given these demands for improvement, the DP considered the proposed post justified.

6. On the progress of work relating to the setting up of a financial services institute, DS/FS advised that the relevant steering committee was deliberating on the work plan submitted by the consultant commissioned earlier on. The study would be conducted in two parts. The first part, which was scheduled for completion in early 1999, was about the human resources requirements of the industry and an overview of the training and development programmes currently available. Based on the findings of the first part of the study, the steering committee would formulate strategies for best meeting the human resources development needs of the financial services sector, one option being the setting up of a financial services institute. The relevant recommendations were expected to be available in mid-1999.

7. In reply to the Chairman about the system rectification required to tackle the Y2K problem, DS/FS advised that the issue at stake was to rectify computer and relevant systems such that the year would be referred to by four digits instead of by its last two digits. Theoretically, fully rectified systems should be able to recognise the transition from one millennium to the next. In practice, the systems would not have so long a life span.

8. In reply to a member, DS/FS and DS/Tsy advised that the proposed PAS(FI) supernumerary post was targeted at overseeing Y2K rectification in the financial services sector as a whole. The issue of Y2K compliance within the Government was under the purview of the Information Technology and Broadcasting Bureau and the Information Technology Services Department, which were drawing up a programme and co-ordinating the efforts of bureaux and departments to tackle the problem. At present, the Administration did not envisage a need for additional posts in bureaux and departments to handle Y2K issues within Government.

9. The item was voted on and endorsed.

EC(98-99)8Proposed transfer of one permanent post of Consultant (D4/D3/D2) and 26 non-directorate permanent posts from Department of Health to the Occupational Health Service of Labour Department with effect from 1 November 1998

10. In reply to a member's enquiry about the work plans of the Occupational Health Service in the Labour Department (LD), the Deputy Commissioner for Labour (DC for L) highlighted the following priorities -
  1. setting specific compliance standards on occupational safety and health (OSH) by way of guidelines and codes of practice for various industries;

  2. promoting a new strategy on OSH in collaboration with the medical services sector and local tertiary institutions;

  3. setting up a second occupational health clinic and an occupational safety and health service centre to expand the existing clinical consultation services on occupational health for the working population and to provide a key venue for education and promotion activities on OSH;

  4. introducing legislation to require workers engaged in hazardous occupations to undergo pre-employment and periodic medical examinations; and

  5. eliminating silicosis and enforcing dust control in construction sites and quarries.
11. On the rationale behind the proposed transfer of 27 medical and nursing posts from the Department of Health (DH) to LD, DC for L elaborated that the Administration considered that OSH was a programme area undergoing considerable development and expansion to meet the increasing demand and rising expectation of the society. In order that this programme area could be accorded the appropriate priority in resource planning and to facilitate effective staff deployment and management, the Administration considered it appropriate to centralise the staffing resources for OSH under the establishment of LD rather than DH.

12. As to whether the proposed transfer of the 27 posts would affect the staff serving in these posts, DC for L and the Occupational Health Consultant, Labour Department advised that since their creation in 1979, the 27 posts had been seconded from DH to LD for the provision of occupational health service. The present proposal was to transfer these 27 posts from the establishment of DH to that of LD so as to reflect more accurately the resource provision to LD and DH in pursuit of their respective programme areas. Upon the transfer of the 27 posts to LD's establishment, DH would continue to take care of grade management matters, i.e. the recruitment for new vacant posts and the promotion and career development of the staff in these posts. Thus, the promotion and career development of these staff would not be affected by the proposed transfer. The departmental management of LD had explained these arrangements to the staff concerned. The Administration also confirmed that there would be no change to the existing arrangement under which staff serving in these 27 posts in LD could be posted out or promoted in the relevant streams in DH.

13. Mr HO Mun-ka enquired if the departmental staff consultative committee comprising representatives from the relevant grades in DH had been consulted on the present proposal. DC for L responded that the proposal was drawn up based on the consensus of the Education and Manpower Bureau, Health and Welfare Bureau, LD and DH. The 27 medical and nursing staff currently serving in the Occupational Health Service of the LD had been consulted and had indicated their support to the proposal. As far as he understood, the proposal had not been put to the staff consultative committee of DH. Mr HO opined that as the 27 posts were currently under the establishment of DH, it was only reasonable to implement the proposed changes after due consultation with the staff consultative committee in DH. He suggested that the Administration withdraw the proposal for further consultation with the relevant staff consultative committees in DH. Mr HO's concern was shared by some other members.

14. In reply to a member, DC for L remarked that deferring approval of the present proposal would not affect LD in performing its work on OSH. Noting members' concern, DS/Tsy advised that the Administration would withdraw the proposal pending formal staff consultation by DH.

15. The item was withdrawn by the Administration.

EC(98-99)9Proposed upgrading of the permanent post of Director of Highways from D5 to D6 to lead the Department to deliver a comprehensive transport infrastructure network

16. In response to a member's query about the implication of upgrading the post of Director of Highways (D/Hy) from D5 to D6 level, the Deputy Secretary for Transport clarified that since 1992, a supernumerary D/Hy post at D6 level had been held against a permanent D/Hy post at D5 level. In view of the high impact infrastructure projects in the pipeline, it was considered appropriate to upgrade the D/Hy post to D6 on a permanent basis to reflect the increased scope and level of responsibilities of the post. He confirmed that the incumbent D/Hy would continue to serve in the permanent D/Hy post upon its being upgraded.

17. A member expressed support for the proposal on account of the wide spectrum of responsibilities for D/Hy in the foreseeable future and the ranking of the heads of other works departments in Government. He suggested that given the experience gained in strategic highway structures completed in recent years, the Highways Department (HyD) should take up the design work of more highways projects in future so as to build up the relevant skill and knowledge, as well as enhance job enrichment and staff morale. D/Hy responded that presently only a small portion of highway structures such as footbridges, subways and flyovers were undertaken by the Structures Division in HyD. Apart from design work, the Division was also responsible for the maintenance of these highway structures. Given its small set-up with about 25 professional staff , it would not be feasible for the Division to take up the design work of major highway projects, which also require supervision of works on site. Unless its staffing strength was significantly increased, the design of major highway works, such as those of ACP, could not be handled in-house. In view of these limitations, the Administration considered it more cost-effective to engage consultants for the design work of new strategic highway structures. However, HyD would still design some major flyovers to maintain expertise. While accepting D/Hy's explanation, the member maintained that in-house staff should be given more opportunities to take up the sophisticated design work of major projects, and he requested D/Hy to consider strengthening the relevant Division by means of suitable staff deployment.

18. In reply to a member's enquiry about the criteria for determining the ranking of a head of department, the Deputy Secretary for the Civil Service (DS/CS) informed members that the Standing Committee on Directorate Salaries and Conditions of Service, which advised the Administration on the appropriate ranking of directorate posts, had drawn up the following core criteria in this regard: -
  1. the importance of the department in question to Hong Kong economically, socially, internally and externally;

  2. the financial impact of the operation of the department on public funds;

  3. the complexity of the matters required to be dealt with by the department, taking into account the relevant social and political circumstances and time constraints etc; and

  4. the size of the department and the degree of diversity of its responsibilities.
19. For members' additional background information, DS/CS said that apart from the core criteria, the Standing Committee also considered other factors such as the personal responsibilities devolved to the head of department, the market value of the qualifications and experience that a competent incumbent head should possess, and the inter-relationship between the department and other Government bureaux/departments and public bodies.

20. The item was voted on and endorsed.

21. The meeting ended at 11:45 am.

Legislative Council Secretariat
27 October 1998