Press Releases

Report on Accountability System

The 2003 Policy Address and the Policy Agenda released recently were the result of the joint efforts of the Principal Officials (POs) under the accountability system.

The Secretary for Constitutional Affairs (SCA), Mr Stephen Lam, made the above statement when the Constitutional Affairs Bureau (CAB) released an interim report on the implementation of the accountability system today (January 15).

He said that the Government had adjusted to the new system. Within six months, the Government had issued the Policy Agenda to set out the priorities for the next 18 months.

The interim report referred to various examples which the Government had responded speedily to situations as they developed.

These examples include:

- The Chief Secretary for Administration has completed a report on Population Policy before the end of 2002 as requested by the Chief Executive.

- To tackle the fiscal deficit problem, the Financial Secretary has determined the level of operating expenditure of the Administration to be $200 billion by 2006/07. This has resulted in a series of cost-saving measures being devised.

- The efforts of the Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology (SCIT) and the Secretary for Economic Development and Labour (SEDL) have led to the business and trade sectors introducing a voluntary "One Company One Job" campaign in late July 2002 to provide employment and training opportunities for fresh graduates.

- The calls on the part of the Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works (SETW) have led to the introduction of fare concessions by relevant public transport operators.

- The Government has taken a lead in fostering the transparency and accountability of the self-regulatory regime of the accounting sector.

In early December 2002, the Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury (SFST) met representatives of the accounting sector to discuss ways to improve the regime, specifically on the need to include more independent participation in the Disciplinary and Investigation Committees of the Hong Kong Society of Accountants.

The Government will continue to join forces with the Society to press ahead with proposals in this direction.

- The SCA has responded to public opinion and increased the number of elected seats in the District Council.

The report also points out that the net increase in full annual cost of the system amounted to $42.228 million when it was introduced on July 1, 2002.

The Administration pledged that it would effect sufficient savings within 12 months to make the exercise cost neutral.

The report says that since the implementation of the system, the Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands (SHPL), Secretary for Education and Manpower (SEM), Secretary for the Civil Service (SCS) and SFST have effected or identified savings through re-organisation of the bureaux and departments under their purview.

The savings realized or identified so far have already amounted to $75.65 million, which include the following savings:

1. The former Housing Bureau and Housing Department have been combined into a single organisation from January 1, 2003. The re-organisation has resulted in net savings of $25.98 million in terms of full annual average staff cost.

2. The merger of the Education and Manpower Bureau (EMB) and the Education Department effective from January 1, 2003 has resulted in an annual savings in staff cost of about $14 million.

3. The Civil Service Bureau (CSB) has re-organised its internal organisation structure and devolved more human resources management responsibility to bureaux and departments on November 1, 2002. It will be able to delete 34 posts by the end of March 2003, representing net savings of about $9.2 million in terms of full annual average staff cost.

4. The Financial Services and Treasury Bureau has plans to merge the Government Land Transport Agency, Government Supplies Department and Printing Department into a new Department, to be called Government Logistics Department, and for it to be established on July 1, 2003, subject to the approval of the Establishment Sub-Committee and the Finance Committee of LegCo.

It is estimated that the proposal will result in a net deletion of 60 posts and will bring about annual savings of about $26.47 million in terms of full annual average staff costs.

The report says that in deciding whether or not to effect any re-organisation of bureaux and departments, the Directors of bureaux concerned have considered whether such a measure would streamline the organisation structure, integrate policy formulation and policy implementation functions in bureaux and departments and enhance efficiency and effect cost savings.

Concerning the POs' review on the number and ranking of Permanent Secretaries (PSs) in their respective bureaux, the report says that as at December 31, 2002, five of the 11 Directors of Bureau, namely SCS, SCA, SEM, SHPL and S for S have completed their review. The other POs will continue with their respective reviews.

The SCA and the S for S have decided that the post of PS for their bureaux could be pitched at AOSGA (D6) for the time being pending a further review in the light of experience.

The SHPL, SEM and SCS have decided that their PSs should be ranked at AOSGA1 (D8). There are two PSs in the Housing, Planning and Lands Bureau, one PS in the EMB and CSB respectively.

End/Wednesday, January 15, 2003.