Speech at Panel on Public Service

III. Civil service-related matters featured in the 2023-2024 Budget

Zero growth in the civil service establishment

Members noted that despite zero growth in the civil service establishment, a number of new posts (including directorate posts) had been created for new service or operational needs following reorganization of government structure. They were concerned whether high salaried posts were created by deleting low salaried vacant posts, resulting in an increase in salary expenses. The Administration was asked to provide a breakdown of the increase in total annual payroll, including the percentage of the payment of salaries incurred from pay adjustment and annual increment; and the percentage of the payment of salaries incurred from structural change (i.e. creating new posts by offsetting vacant posts).

The Administration advised that zero growth was applicable to the overall civil service establishment and, as such, it did not mean zero growth in the establishment of each and every B/Ds. Accordingly, the establishment of individual B/Ds might still increase having regard to operational needs and with full justifications. Since such increase could be more than offset by the deletion of posts no longer required by other B/Ds for their operations, there would remain no net growth in the overall civil service establishment. The posts which could be deleted for offsetting might arise from, for example, lapse of supernumerary posts upon completion of the tasks concerned, or posts no longer required as a result of streamlining of work processes or use of technology, etc. The Administration also reassured members that, for vacant posts with operational needs and to be filled, they would not be deleted for offsetting creation of new posts. On payment of salary, the across-the-board pay adjustment of 2.5% last year had an impact of around HK$6.8 billion on government expenditure.

Financial provisions for medical and dental services

Members noted that the estimate for the payment and reimbursement of medical fees and hospital charges rose considerably in 2023-2024 to meet the anticipated increase in applications for reimbursement of medical expenses from serving civil servants, pensioners and other eligible persons (“CSEPs”). One of the factors contributing to the increase was the expected increase in the number of CSEPs. Question was raised about the expected number of CSEPs to be increased in 2023-2024 and consequential amount of expenditure. The Administration advised that it was not possible to estimate the increase in the number of CSEPs which included civil servants’ spouse and children. Hence, the figures requested could not be provided.

IV. “Government-wide mobilization” level under the enhanced mobilization protocol

First drill

Members in general recognized the need to conduct drills under the “government-wide mobilization” level to enhance the Administration’s emergency response capability. They enquired about the implementation details of the first drill under the “government-wide mobilization” level (“the first drill”), including the number of government employees on the list of designated personnel (“the list”) that had been mobilized, the time allowed for the 300 staff members to reach the North Point Community Hall upon receipt of the notification and whether the capacity of the Efficiency Office’s support hotlines to cope with a huge number of incoming calls had been tested.

The Administration advised that the first drill started at 11:45 am on 16 February 2023, with all the staff rostered on shift one of the list of all bureaux and departments (“B/Ds”) (i.e. around 10 000 staff) participated. Upon receipt of the notification from CSB, all B/Ds had to inform the staff concerned to be on standby and 300 staff members from six departments had to arrive at the North Point Community Hall within about three hours. All 300 staff members had arrived on time. As for the Efficiency Office, it was required to set up 20 support hotlines for the first drill and all of them had worked well. In case of a sudden surge of demand for hotlines upon initiation of the “government-wide mobilization” level, the Efficiency Office would coordinate with major government call centres to provide the necessary support.

Emergency procurement and logistics arrangements

Given the importance of timely delivery of supplies and resources during major incidents, some members were concerned about the Administration’s advance preparedness for emergency procurement and logistics. There was a suggestion that the Administration should liaise with the suppliers of essential items in advance to ensure that the Administration could secure a stable supply of resources with priority in major incidents.

The Administration advised that to assess the capability of the Government Logistics Department in providing specialist support during emergencies, it was required to deploy two trucks to arrive at the site of the drill within the specified time. In fact, CSB had reminded B/Ds providing specialist support to devise contingency plans in advance to facilitate efficient support during emergencies.