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Government publishes Consultation Document on Further Development of the Political Appointment System

The Government issued a consultation document today (July 26) to canvass views from the community on how best to further develop the political appointment system. The Government proposes to create new positions to support Principal Officials, namely Deputy Directors of Bureau and Assistants to Directors of Bureau.

The Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, said the proposal would create more room for participation in political affairs. "Creation of political positions at different levels of the Government will provide a new channel for public-spirited individuals to acquire practical knowledge of government operations and nurture their political skills," Mr Lam said.

"The proposal will present a more comprehensive career path, and provide a greater incentive, for individuals who want to serve Hong Kong by entering politics.

"This will also complement the further development of Hong Kong's electoral system as those who aspire to serving the community will have opportunities to join the Government or stand in elections to the Legislative Council or District Councils.

"Politically appointed Principal Officials will also be provided with more support for carrying out the full range of political work to meet the demands of people-based governance. Additional political appointments will be conducive to maintaining the political neutrality of the civil service," Mr Lam said.

The consultation document is issued following the Chief Executive's announcement in his inaugural Policy Address in October, 2005, on the proposal to consult the public on the arrangements to create within the Government a small number of positions dedicated to political affairs.

The Chief Executive considered that implementation of the political appointment system in July, 2002, represented an important step forward in constitutional development. He acknowledged that the new system of governance was in need of further improvement.

At the same time, he reaffirmed that the civil service remained the backbone of the Government and reiterated the importance of upholding the integrity and interests of the civil service in taking things forward.

In pursuing the proposal, the number of additional political appointments would be small and these positions would not be created at the expense of the civil service. Senior civil servants would continue to provide support to Principal Officials and there should be a clear division of role and responsibilities between the civil service and the political team.

Details of the proposed arrangements set out in the Consultation Document on the Further Development of the Appointment System are as follows:

- In principle, each Director of Bureau should be assisted by one Deputy Director of Bureau and one Assistant to Director of Bureau. They are not civil servants and can enter the Government by direct appointments.

- Deputy Directors of Bureau are responsible principally for assisting Directors of Bureau in undertaking the full range of political work and deputising for Principal Officials during the latter's temporary absence. They are subordinates of Directors of Bureau and work under the latter's direction.

- Assistants to Directors of Bureau report to the Directors of Bureau through the Deputy Directors of Bureau. They are mainly to assist their Directors of Bureau and Deputy Directors of Bureau in carrying out the more routine political work.

- The remuneration of Deputy Directors of Bureau should be pitched within a range equivalent to 65% to 75% of the remuneration package approved by the Finance Committee in 2002 for a Director of Bureau. This is broadly equivalent to the remuneration of a D4 to D6 civil servant on agreement terms with all allowances encashed.

- The remuneration of Assistants to Directors of Bureau should be pitched within a range equivalent to 35% to 50% of the remuneration package approved by the Finance Committee in 2002 for a Director of Bureau. This is broadly equivalent to the remuneration of a senior professional to D2 civil servant on agreement terms with all allowances enchashed.

- Deputy Directors of Bureau will be appointed and removed by the Chief Executive at the recommendation of the Directors of Bureau, while the Assistants to Directors of Bureau will be appointed and removed by the Directors of Bureau with the consent of the Chief Executive.

- Potential candidates for the new positions will be drawn from within or outside the civil service, including individuals with political party, academic, professional, business, civil service and other backgrounds.

- Serving civil servants should retire or resign from the civil service before accepting such appointments.

- Like Principal Officials, Deputy Directors of Bureau are expected to shoulder political responsibility for the success or failure in policy formulation or implementation, or for grave misconduct. Their term of appointment will not exceed that of the Chief Executive who appoints them.

- The Code for Principal Officials under the Accountability System should, with any necessary modifications, apply to the performance and behaviour of Deputy Directors of Bureau and Assistants to Directors of Bureau. They should also be subject to requirements on declaration of interests, disclosure of official information and acceptance of employment after leaving office. Details will be worked out after the public consultation.

- With the further development of the political appointment system, the well-established system of appointment, promotion and discipline within the civil service needs to be preserved.

Public consultation on the proposal will last four months, during which the Government will consult widely, both within and outside the civil service.

After the consultation, the Government will analyse the views collected, with a view to announcing the Government's decision on the way forward some time during the first half of 2007.

The present thinking is that implementation will not take place before the third term Chief Executive assumes office. The actual timing and pace of implementation will be subject to the views collected during public consultation, resource availability, and availability of individuals of the right calibre to fill the new positions.

People are also welcome to forward their views to the Constitutional Affairs Bureau, 3/F Main Wing, Central Government Offices, Lower Albert Road, Hong Kong, by fax to 2521 8702, or via email (pa-consultation@cab.gov.hk) on or before November 30, 2006.

Public views and comments received may be published in their entirety for public information unless otherwise specified in the submission.

Copies of the consultation document are available for collection by the public at the Public Enquiry Service Centres (PESCs) of the 18 District Offices. People can also access the consultation document on the Constitutional Affairs Bureau website (www.cab.gov.hk).

Ends/Wednesday, July 26, 2006