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LCQ6: Assessment of the performance of the Government and principal officials

     Following is a question by Dr the Hon Lam Tai-fai and a reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam, in the Legislative Council today (March 25):


     On the 5th of this month, the Premier of the State Council delivered the Report on the Work of the Government at the third session of the Twelfth National People's Congress. It was mentioned in the Report that "there is still much to be improved in the work of the government, with some policies and measures not being satisfactorily implemented. A small number of government employees behave irresponsibly; shocking cases of corruption still exist; and some government officials are neglectful of their duties, holding onto their jobs while failing to fulfill their responsibilities". He also stated that "we will work to improve the mechanisms for assessing performance, and commend those who perform well, admonish those who do not, and expose and hold to account those who are indolent, sloppy, or neglectful of their duties". In mentioning the streamlining of administration and delegation of powers, he emphasised that "it goes without saying that powers should not be held without good reason". On the other hand, quite a number of comments and opinion polls indicate that the policy implementation by the current-term SAR Government has been difficult, the relationship between the Executive Authorities and the Legislature is poor, the popularity ratings of the Chief Executive and some principal officials have been persistently low, and people's dissatisfaction with the Government continues to rise. All of the above have reflected that the Accountability System for Principal Officials exists in name only, and a governance crisis has emerged. Regarding the assessment of the performance of the SAR Government and the principal officials according to the Premier's remarks, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether the Government has reviewed which policies and measures have not been satisfactorily implemented at present, and whether there are incompetent principal officials who have failed to fulfill their responsibilities, thereby resulting in their persistently low popularity ratings and the continuous rise in people's dissatisfaction with the Government; if it has conducted such a review, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(2) as there are comments that since the Government is supervised by the people, the low popularity ratings of officials reflect that people do not approve of their capabilities and performance, whether the Government has admonished and held to account principal officials with low popularity ratings who did not perform well, so that the Accountability System will not exist in name only; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(3) given that subsequent to the authorities' withdrawal of the financial proposal relating to the establishment of the Innovation and Technology Bureau in the middle of last month due to filibustering by some members of the Finance Committee of this Council, the Chief Executive appointed a former Vice President of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University as his Innovation & Technology Adviser and as a non-official Member of the Executive Council, and quite a number of political parties have criticised such practice as rule-breaking, whether the Government has assessed if such practice is tantamount to using powers in a wilful manner; whether the Chief Executive has consulted Members of the Executive Council before deciding to make such appointments; if he has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     In consultation with the Chief Executive's Office and relevant departments, I am authorised to respond to the question raised by Dr the Hon Lam as follows:

(1) and (2) The Political Appointment System was implemented in 2002 to recruit talents from both inside and outside the government structure to take up the positions of Secretaries of Department and Directors of Bureau, so that the Government could be more responsive to public sentiments during policy implementation, address modern management needs, and strengthen a permanent and professional civil service. Under the System, the top echelon of the Government comprises principal officials who are political appointees. The politically appointed principal officials are politically responsible for their respective policy areas and accountable to the Chief Executive. The Chief Executive, in forming his governing team, expects its members to share his vision and mission, and to implement the policies in the Chief Executive's Policy Address and the measures of various bureaux in the Policy Agenda in an earnest manner under his leadership.

     According to the Code for Officials under the Political Appointment System (the Code), relevant officials shall be dedicated to their duties and be responsible to the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). They shall act in the best interests of the HKSAR as a whole. Furthermore, politically appointed principal officials are responsible for their respective portfolios designated to them by the Chief Executive and lead the executive departments within their respective portfolios, and are also responsible for formulating, explaining and defending government policies as well as canvassing support from the public and the Legislative Council. In the event of any allegation of breach of duty or the provisions set out in the Code by the politically appointed officials, the Chief Executive after due process would decide whether the alleged breach is established and if so, the applicable sanctions, including warning, public reprimand, or even recommendation to the Central People's Government for their suspension or dismissal.

     Policy initiatives carried out by the current Government were based on the Policy Address of the Chief Executive, Policy Agenda of various bureaux as well as the Election Manifesto of the Chief Executive before he assumed office. The pledges contained therein have been progressively implemented by the current Government since taking office with the full support and assistance from the politically appointed officials and civil servants, upon considering socioeconomic developments and the wishes of the public. The Chief Executive announces policy highlights through the annual Policy Address. In the 2015 Policy Address announced this year, the Chief Executive stated that the major objectives are "pursue democracy, boost the economy and improve people's livelihood", and proposed many initiatives benefiting people from all walks of life. In fact, for the current Government, politically appointed officials and permanent civil servants alike under the leadership of the Chief Executive, have been duly performing their duties and responsibilities with devotion and progressively implementing policy initiatives concerning the well-being of people in areas such as housing, poverty alleviation, elderly and environment protection as committed by the Chief Executive in his Manifesto, and these efforts are beginning to bear fruit. Despite the Government's efforts to roll out policy initiatives to promote the economy and improve people's livelihood, in recent years some Councillors and political parties, because of different political views, engage in filibustering and "uncooperative" movement, seriously affecting the efficiency of the Legislative Council in its operation, as well as delaying the scrutiny of the Government's funding applications. These actions not only obstructed Government policies and delayed the implementation of many policy initiatives concerning Hong Kong's economy, society and livelihood, but also caused direct and concrete loss to the general public, which included substantially increasing the costs of infrastructure projects due to filibustering, causing a sustained fall in Hong Kong's competitiveness and productivity as well as putting Hong Kong in an disadvantaged position in competing in the international and regional arena. Filibustering by some Members had also delayed the scrutiny of funding applications for the early implementation of some livelihood initiatives in areas including poverty alleviation, elderly and helping the disadvantaged. These acts of being "uncooperative" are hindering the progress of our society and damaging the executive-legislature relationship; the situation is worrying. The majority of our Legislative Council Members have in mind the development of Hong Kong and the interests of our people. The principal officials of the Government will as always continue to be dedicated in performing their duties in formulating, introducing and explaining Government policies, as well as canvassing support from the public and the Legislative Council. We hope that those few Members involved in filibustering and "uncooperative" movement could get back onto the right track, work with the Government to help Hong Kong seize the opportunities and build Hong Kong together.

(3) The Government proposed to set up the Innovation and Technology Bureau since innovation and technology are important driving forces for the economy of Hong Kong. The Government must proactively promote the development of innovation and technology in Hong Kong to strengthen Hong Kong's long-term competitiveness. The industry players have demanded for years, through the setting up of the Innovation and Technology Bureau, focused and high-level leadership for stronger policy coordination and execution across the innovation and technology industries and to fully capture the opportunities provided by advancements in technology and the commercial potential they offer.

     The current Chief Executive, after he was elected in March 2012, immediately proposed reorganisation of the Government Secretariat, an important part of which was to reorganise the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau into two policy bureaux to develop related industries and promote innovation and technology in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, filibustering in the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council, leading to lengthy and protracted meetings, made it impossible for the proposal to be endorsed before the end of the 2012 Legislative Council session.

     In January 2014, the setting up of the Innovation and Technology Bureau was announced again by the Chief Executive in the 2014 Policy Address. The Commerce and Economic Development Bureau consulted the Panel on Commerce and Industry and the Panel on Information Technology and Broadcasting respectively in April 2014, and both Panels endorsed the proposal and requested for the establishment of the Bureau as soon as possible. The proposed personnel establishment was endorsed by the Establishment Subcommittee of the Legislative Council in June 2014 and the legislative amendments relating to the transfer of statutory functions to the proposed Director of Bureau and Permanent Secretary were passed by the Legislative Council on October 29, 2014. It is regrettable that, as a result of filibustering by pan-democratic Legislative Councillors, even after discussion of four sessions of the Finance Committee for 16 hours, the proposal for the establishment of the Innovation and Technology Bureau could not be passed at the meeting of the Finance Committee on February 14, and the Innovation and Technology Bureau could not be established as planned.

     There is a pressing need to take forward the development of innovation and technology; Hong Kong cannot continue to lag behind our competitors either. Therefore, the Chief Executive appointed Mr Nicholas Yang as a member of the Executive Council as well as Advisor to the Chief Executive on Innovation and Technology. The Executive Council is an organ for assisting the Chief Executive in policy-making, its role, composition and functions are clearly stated in the Basic Law. The Basic Law also states that Members of the Executive Council are appointed by the Chief Executive from among the principal officials of the executive authorities, Members of the Legislative Council and public figures; and that their appointment or removal is decided by the Chief Executive. Mr Yang has extensive experience and international perspective in innovation and technology. The Chief Executive believes that he can help the Government formulate more focused and timely policies relating to innovation and technology.

     Thank you, President.

Ends/Wednesday, March 25, 2015