Information Paper for Legislative Council
Panel on Public Service

Policy on the Provision of Passages and Subsistence Allowance
for Overseas Duty Visits by Senior Civil Servants


This paper serves to explain the policy on passage and subsistence allowance for overseas duty visits by senior civil servants.


Grading of duty passages

2. The class of air passage for officers travelling by air on duty outside Hong Kong was reviewed in 1992. Having regard to international practices, the following arrangements were adopted -

Salary PointClass of TravelRemarks
D8 and above or equivalentFirst Class
D5 to D7 or equivalentBusiness ClassFirst Class if flying time is 6 hours or more
D4 or equivalentBusiness ClassUpgrade by one level if flying
time is 12 hours or more
D3 and below or equivalentEconomy Class

Upgrading of the passage may also be allowed under the following circumstances -

  • the officer has to travel again within 7 calendar days

  • the officer is subject to an extremely tight flight/duty schedule

3. We have recently issued guidelines to departments to clarify that an officer may not upgrade his passages if he takes leave prior to performing duty at the place of visit.

Procurement of Duty Passages

4. Up to 30 June 1998, duty passages had to be purchased in accordance with an Air Passage Agreement which Government had entered into with two airline companies. With effect from 1 July 1998, the Air Passage Agreement lapsed and new procurement arrangements came into force.

5. Under the new procedures, departments are required to follow the Stores and Procurement Regulations when purchasing air tickets for duty travel. In accordance with the regulations, departments have to obtain at least two quotations for passages with a value not exceeding $20,000 and at least five quotations if the value is $20,000 or above. In cases where an offer other than the lowest is to be accepted or less than the minimum number of quotations are received, the officer accepting the selected offer must be at or above the rank of D2. In practice, departments are required to choose the offer which is the most cost effective and best meets their itinerary requirements

Modification of passage arrangements

6. On the condition that the duty commitments of a visit can be fully met and that the visit schedule will not be unduly affected, departments may allow an officer to modify the original passage arrangements provided that the following conditions are fully met -

  1. all additional expenses arising from variations for private purpose must be borne by the officer;

  2. savings arising from the purchase of cheaper air tickets must not be used to subsidize the officer's private travel;

  3. the modified passage should still suit the original purpose of the duty visit.


7. An overall review of the grading of duty passage and the regulations concerning upgrading and modification of passage arrangements is being conducted. A further paper will be submitted to Members after completion of the review.


Purpose of granting subsistence allowance

8. An officer who is on duty outside Hong Kong may be granted a subsistence allowance. The allowance is intended to cover the cost of accommodation, meals, laundry charges, travelling expenses within towns and other incidental out-of-pocket expenses. Subsistence allowance is payable from the night following arrival in the place of duty up to and including the night before departure from the place of duty. All civil servants on duty outside Hong Kong are eligible for the allowance.

Rates of subsistence allowance

Standard rates

9. The standard rates of subsistence allowance vary from country to country or city to city, depending on its standard of living. These rates may be adjusted in specified circumstances as described in paragraph 10 to 12 below.

Reduced rates

10. If free accommodation, free meals, or free transport is provided by other organisations, the rates of allowance payable to an officer will be reduced as follows :

Elements covered by sponsorship or
separately paid for
% of standard rate to be deducted
Hotel accommodation60%
Travelling within town5%
Sponsorship in cashthe amount of sponsorship

If an officer, instead of staying in a hotel, is provided with free accommodation by a friend, relative, or another officer, or lives in his own house, the allowance payable will be reduced to 60% of the standard rates.

Enhanced rates

11. With the approval of the Head of Department (or the approval of Secretary for the Civil Service for applications from Heads of Department), an officer may draw an allowance at enhanced rates with production of bills under the following circumstances :

  1. An officer may draw an allowance made up of the actual cost of hotel accommodation (excluding meals and sundries) plus 40% of the subsistence allowance if it is necessary to stay in a particular hotel for operational reasons or cheaper hotel accommodation is not available.

  2. An officer may draw an allowance made up of the actual cost of in-town travelling expenses plus 95% of the subsistence allowance if the journeys made are essential and if the most economical or practical mode of transport is used for the particular journey. As a general rule taxis or hired cars may be used where the visit programme is tight and/or where public transport facilities in the country concerned are inadequate. If officers are sharing a taxi or a hired car, each of them are subject to a 5% deduction of the subsistence allowance.

12. An officer who is granted allowance under paragraph 11(a) and (b) concurrently will draw an allowance made up of the actual cost of hotel accommodation and in-town travelling plus 35% of the subsistence allowance.

Civil Service Bureau
December 1998