LC Paper No. ESC65/98-99
(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 tenth meeting held at the Legislative Council Chamber on Wednesday, 19 May 1999, at 10:45 am

Members present :

Hon NG Leung-sing (Deputy Chairman)
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW LIANG Shuk-yee, JP
Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Hon Jasper TSANG Yok-sing, JP
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP

Members absent :

Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong (Chairman)
Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon Cyd HO Sau-lan
Hon Michael HO Mun-ka
Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, JP
Dr Hon David LI Kwok-po, JP
Hon Margaret NG
Hon MA Fung-kwok
Hon CHAN Kwok-keung
Hon Bernard CHAN
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
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

Mr LAU Kwok-choi
Principal Assistant Secretary for Works

Mr Bernard M T LAM, JP
Director of Civil Engineering

Deputy Director (Geotechnical), Civil Engineering Department

Mr Esmond LEE
Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning,
Environment and Lands

Land Registrar

Mr TSE Man-shing
Principal Executive Officer, Civil Service
Clerk in attendance :
Ms LEUNG Siu-kum
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)2
Staff in attendance :
Miss Polly YEUNG
Assistant Secretary General 1

Ms Anita SIT
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)8
As Dr Philip WONG was unable to chair the meeting, Mr NG Leung-sing, Deputy Chairman of the Subcommittee, took the chair in the absence of Dr WONG.

EC(1999-2000)10 Proposed making permanent of three posts of one Government Geotechnical Engineer (D2) and two Chief Geotechnical Engineer (D1) in the Geotechnical Engineering Office of the Civil Engineering Department to continue providing directorate support for the Landslip Preventive Measures Programme on slopes registered in the New Catalogue of Slopes and to manage ongoing slope safety functions

2. In reply to Dr Raymond HO's query about a recent sample survey on private slopes, the Director of Civil Engineering (DCE) advised that the survey was conducted by the Civil Engineering Department (CED). According to the survey results, only 40% of the private slopes in the sample were considered to have been maintained satisfactorily. For the remaining 60% private slopes not properly maintained, it was found that a significant majority of the property owners concerned were satisfied with the safety conditions of these slopes. He pointed out that the survey results indicated the need to strengthen public education and publicity on slope safety, which was a major responsibility of the Chief Geotechnical Engineer/Slope Safety post under the present proposal. He also advised that the Administration was considering whether legislation should be enacted to make slope maintenance a statutory responsibility. In this connection, the Deputy Director (Geotechnical)/CED informed members that the Lands Department was conducting a comprehensive study to identify the maintenance responsibility for all the existing 54 000 man-made slopes registered in the Slope Catalogue. Upon completion of the study, the maintenance responsibility in respect of individual slopes would be publicized.

3. Dr Raymond HO sought elaboration on the statement in the discussion paper that "on completion of the expanded Landslip Preventive Measures (LPM) Programme in early 2010, the overall landslide risk to the community will be further reduced to 25% of that existed in 1977". DCE referred to Enclosure 5 of the paper and advised that of the 54 000 man-made slopes registered in the recently completed New Catalogue of Slopes, about 37 000 slopes were built before the establishment of the Geotechnical Engineering Office in 1977, and some of these slope might be substandard and required LPM action. Of these 37 000 slopes, some 16 000 slopes affecting buildings, schools, major roads and squatters etc. were categorized as high-consequence slopes, which would have been dealt with under the 5-year accelerated LPM Programme by 2000 and the 10-year expanded LPM Programme by 2010. As a result, the overall landslide risks would be reduced to 25% of that existed in 1977. He further advised that the landslide risk of individual slopes was assessed on the basis of two key aspects, namely, the probability of landslip and the extent of consequences on human lives and properties in the event of failure. Priority would be given to those slopes with relatively high landslide risk in the implementation of the LPM Programmes.

4. Mrs Selina CHOW expressed concern about traffic disruption caused by the LPM works carried out at roadside slopes. She observed that roadside slope works usually progressed very slowly and thus enquired about the feasibility of expediting such works and the monitoring mechanism. In response, DCE confirmed that in co-ordination with other relevant Government departments, CED programmed and monitored roadside LPM works with particular regard to the need to minimize disruption to road traffic. He advised that with the increased use of soil nails and grouting to replace the traditional method of slope cutting over the past few years, the speed of roadside LPM works had improved and thus traffic disruption had been reduced. He however pointed out that there were limitations to further expedite these works due to the need to carry out these works section-by-section in order not to cause undue disruption to road traffic, the limited capacity of the contractors concerned, inclement weather and unexpected geotechnical conditions etc.

5. Addressing Mrs CHOW's concern about the traffic safety problems during the implementation of the LPM works, DCE advised that the Transport Department worked closely with the Police in devising the necessary traffic diversion measures. Acknowledging that non-compliance with the temporary traffic lights erected at affected road sections was fairly common during night time, DCE undertook to liaise with the Police to strengthen law enforcement. He also took note of Mrs CHOW's suggestion of displaying a telephone number in the vicinity to facilitate instant reporting of such non-compliance. In reply to Dr HO's enquiry about the provision of landscape treatment on roadside slopes, DCE advised that it was difficult to provide landscape gardening on cement-sprayed slopes. Nevertheless, CED had experimented other forms of slope surface finish to improve the outlook of these slopes.

6. The item was voted on and endorsed.

EC(1999-2000)11Proposed retention of one supernumerary post of Deputy Principal Solicitor (DL2) to be offset by the deletion of one permanent post of Senior Solicitor (MPS 45 - 49) under the Land Registry Trading Fund for four years from 21 June 1999 to assist the Land Registrar to finalise the drafting of the Land Titles Bill, to steer the Bill through the Executive Council and the Legislative Council and to plan and prepare for implementation of the title registration system

7. Mr TSANG Yok-sing enquired about the preparatory work required for the introduction of the Land Titles Bill (LTB) having regard to the work undertaken when the LTB was first introduced to the former Legislative Council (LegCo) in 1994. In reply, the Land Registrar (LR) advised that the current draft LTB contained some revisions to the LTB 1994, examination of which was curtailed upon dissolution of the former LegCo in 1995. While the drafting of the Bill was undertaken by the law draftsman, the Deputy Principal Solicitor (DPS) in question was responsible for consulting the stakeholders in relation to the Bill and the drafting of the related subsidiary legislation. To facilitate implementation of the new title registration system, the DPS was also required to draft new procedures and forms for the new title registration system and to consult relevant professional bodies on these procedures.

8. On the timetable for the legislative proposal, LR advised that under the current plan, the LTB was scheduled for introduction to LegCo in 2000, enactment in late 2001 and commencement of operation by late 2002.

9. Mrs Selina CHOW concurred that LR required the support of the DPS to take forward the legislative proposal. She however pointed out that as the draft LTB had already aroused considerable controversy amongst stakeholders concerned, the Administration should undertake thorough consultations before introducing the Bill to LegCo. In response, LR advised that the Administration was reviewing the draft LTB in the light of the comments received during the first round of consultations conducted earlier this year. The Administration would conduct a fresh round of consultations with the key stakeholders, in particular, the Law Society of Hong Kong, and the DPS would have an important role to play in this regard. In reply to Mrs CHOW's enquiry on whether any dispute on the policy aspects of the Bill had been raised in the consultation process, LR said that stakeholders consulted so far supported in principle a title registration system while a few organisations, particularly the Law Society of Hong Kong, had queried some fundamental points in the Bill. As such, the Administration would initiate further discussions with these stakeholders with a view to addressing their concerns fully before submitting the Bill to LegCo. He also assured members that the Administration would brief the relevant LegCo Panel on the results of the consultation exercise and other preparatory work for the Bill in due course, probably within this legislative session.

10. The item was voted on and endorsed.

EC(1999-2000)12 Proposed retention of one supernumerary post of Administrative Officer Staff Grade C (D2) for 18 months from 1 July 1999 and creation of one supernumerary post of Principal Executive Officer (D1) for 12 months from 1 July 1999 in the Civil Service Bureau of Government Secretariat to cope with the Civil Service Reform exercise

11. On how the duration of proposed supernumerary Administrative Officer Staff Grade C (AOSGC) post would tie in with the work schedule of the Civil Service Reform exercise, the Deputy Secretary for the Civil Service (DS/CS) advised that the Administration was committed to a 18-month timetable to get in place the key framework for the Civil Service Reform. Referring to the three main tasks of the AOSGC post set out in the discussion paper, he advised that the Administration aimed to complete the Civil Service Starting Salaries Review and to implement the resultant changes within one year or so. While the 1999 and 2000 Civil Service Pay Adjustment exercises would have to be completed within the 18-month timeframe of the post, the work on devising and implementing performance-based pay systems in the Civil Service would stretch beyond the coming 18 months. The target timetable for the latter was to put in place an overall framework within 18 months and thereafter, to develop specific performance-based pay systems for individual departments and grades. Given these work plans, the 18-month duration of the AOSGC post was considered sufficient, though the need for an extension of the post would be reviewed nearer the expiry of the supernumerary post.

12. Mr TSANG Yok-sing queried whether it would be preferable to recruit from outside the Civil Service an appropriate person with substantial experience in institutional reforms to fill the AOSGC post. In response, DS/CS advised that the Administration had given a pledge to the community and the staff side that the Civil Service Reform would not be geared to overturning the current civil service systems, but to build on them. Therefore, it was important for the post-holder of the AOSGC post to have good working knowledge on the strengths and weaknesses of these systems. He pointed out that the AOSGC would study and research into different performance-based pay systems used by both the private and the public sectors in and outside Hong Kong. He added that in the course of developing ideas for the reform, the Administration could solicit outsiders' views and advice through engaging consultants and making use of established contacts with the private sector.

13. Regarding the work on devising performance-based pay systems, Mr CHAN Wing-chan sought elaboration on the idea of setting up a system of assessment panels to monitor the distribution of grading and handle appeals against performance appraisal. In response, DS/CS advised that a fair and open performance appraisal system was important not only for performance-based pay systems, but to a whole range of other civil service reform initiatives. The purpose of setting up a system of assessment panels was to enhance the current appraisal system to ensure that staff reports reflected accurately the performance of civil servants. He remarked that similar mechanisms had been adopted in the private sector.

14. Mr CHAN Wing-chan conveyed the concern of some civil servants that a performance-based pay system might be susceptible to the influence of favouritism. In reply to his enquiry about the extent of discretion possessed by heads of departments under such a system, DS/CS stressed that the Administration fully recognized the paramount importance of establishing a credible, rational and transparent performance appraisal system for the development of a performance linked pay system. He assured members that the Administration would ensure the objectivity of any future performance-based pay systems. In this regard, the Civil Service Bureau was considering some suggestions from the staff side on how to safeguard objectivity under such systems.

15. The item was voted on and endorsed.

16. The Subcommittee was adjourned at 11:40 a.m.

Legislative Council Secretariat
10 June 1999