Following is a question by the Hon Lee Cheuk-yan and an on oral reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, in the Legislative Council today (July 9):
Regarding the selection and appointment of the first batch of Under Secretaries and Political Assistants to Directors of Bureaux, will the Government inform this Council whether:
(a) nominations or referrals of candidates for such posts have been made by members of the Appointment Committee and the two Interviewing Panels; if so, whether the members concerned had declared interests, and whether they had withdrawn from the meetings at which the appointment of the candidates nominated or referred was discussed and made; and
(b) any guideline or code of practice on the avoidance of conflict of interests was drawn up for the selection and appointment of candidates for such posts; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
Following the approval of the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council (LegCo) on the creation of the Under Secretary and Political Assistant posts in December 2007, the Government indicated that all interested parties could put forward their nominations. The nominations or referrals received by the Government came from political parties, think tanks, government sources (including Secretaries of Departments, Directors of Bureaux and Head of the Central Policy Unit). By January 2008, the Government had received over 100 nominations or referrals and self-nominations. We will not comment on the details of the number of nominations or referrals received from different sources.
The process for appointing Under Secretaries and Political Assistants was fair and vigorous. Each of the relevant candidates had to go through both the interviewing panels and the Appointment Committee (AC). The AC was chaired by the Chief Executive (CE), and comprised the three Secretaries of Departments, the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs (SCMA), and the Director of the Chief Executive's Office (D/CEO). As regards the interviewing panels, the one for Under Secretaries was chaired by the Chief Secretary for Administration, typically with a number of Directors of Bureaux and D/CEO as members; and the one for Political Assistants was chaired by D/CEO or SCMA with one to two other Directors of Bureaux as members. The interviewing panels would compile assessments at the end of each interview and these were presented to the AC for consideration. All key decisions on the appointment procedures were made by the AC on a collective basis.
The AC, when considering individual candidates, was aware of whether a candidate was self-nominated or nominated / referred through other channels, and if the latter, information about the party making the nomination or referral. There was, therefore, no question of any conflict of interest arising.
As the CE stressed earlier in the LegCo, throughout the entire appointment process, from formation of interviewing panels, consideration of candidates, to determination of their remuneration levels and postings etc, all decisions were made with the AC's approval after careful consideration. No single member of the AC could rule alone on these matters.
Ends/Wednesday, July 9, 2008