Following is a question by the Hon Cyd Ho and a reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, in the Legislative Council today (July 13):
Regarding the provisions in the Guidelines on Election-related Activities in respect of the Chief Executive Elections and the Code for Officials under the Political Appointment System on the participation in the Chief Executive (CE) elections by politically appointed officials, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) given that at the Council meeting held on June 29 this year, a Member of this Council asked whether the Chief Secretary for Administration (CS) had deployed public resources of the Government to prepare for the CE electioneering campaign, and when I raised a supplementary question on whether CE had asked CS or instructed anyone to ask CS if the web site under preparation was the official web site for CS or his own personal web site, the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs did not provide the required information, whether the authorities can provide a clear response in this regard because it is the responsibility of CE to ensure that appointed officials follow all rules and regulations in both official business and their private life; if after making the enquiries they have learnt that the web site under preparation is an official web site, whether the web site has been produced by ePlus Communications Limited (ePlus), whether the service contract of web site production has been granted to ePlus through tendering, and of the fees charged by ePlus for this service as well as whether such fees are on a par with market prices; if ePlus has not charged fees that are on a par with market prices, of the channels through which the politically appointed official concerned has declared his interests;
(b) whether the authorities have set upper limits in monetary terms on the services, gifts, discounts and sponsorships received by politically appointed officials; if they have, of these upper limits; whether they have assessed if officials accepting such advantages without making declarations have contravened the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance or the Independent Commission Against Corruption Ordinance, and of the mechanism in place to examine if such advantages will give rise to any conflict of interest with their official duties; and
(c) of the existing mechanism to prevent politically appointed officials from requiring their civil servant subordinates, in particular those in the Administrative Officer or Information Officer grades or directorate civil servants, to participate during or outside office hours in private activities for promoting the personal image of politically appointed officials, including their participation in the preparatory work for electioneering activities?
(a) Regarding the incident reported by the media earlier, the Chief Secretary for Administration (CS) has already issued a statement emphasising that in the use of government resources he had fully complied with relevant government regulations.
There is only one official website for the CS, i.e. www.cso.gov.hk. The Information Services Department is the webmaster of the website, providing website design and technical support in relation to the official duties and responsibilities of the CS. The HKSAR Government has nothing further to supplement in this regard.
(b) The "Code for Officials Under the Political Appointment System" (the Code) stipulates that as public servants employed by the Government, politically-appointed officials (PAOs) are subject to the relevant provisions in the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance (Chapter 201 of the Laws of Hong Kong) and the Independent Commission Against Corruption Ordinance (Chapter 204 of the Laws of Hong Kong), and shall if necessary seek guidance from the Chief Executive as to the acceptance and retention of gifts, advantages or other benefit.
In addition, PAOs are required to keep a register of gift, advantage, payment, sponsorship (including financial sponsorships and sponsored visits) or material benefit received by them or their spouses from any organisation, person or government other than the Government which in any way relates to their office as PAOs. The register will be made available in the bureau/office served by the official concerned for public inspection on request.
(c) The Administration has set out clear regulations and guidelines for civil servants and non-civil service contract staff participating in political activities. Officers who are particularly susceptible to accusations of bias, namely Directorate Officers, Administrative Officers, Police Officers and Information Officers, are prohibited from participating in electioneering activities. There is no objection in principle to other civil servants and non-civil service contract staff to participate in electioneering activities in their private capacity provided that it does not give rise to any conflict of interest with their official duties. Officers concerned should also comply with the Civil Service Regulations on outside work. A civil servant who commits a disciplinary offence could be liable to disciplinary action. The Code also stipulates that PAOs shall not require or influence civil servants directly or indirectly to act in any way which is in breach of any Government Regulations including Civil Service Regulations.
Ends/Wednesday, July 13, 2011