The Chief Executive is the head of the Government of the HKSAR. The Chief
Secretary for Administration, the Financial Secretary or the Secretary for Justice
deputises for the Chief Executive during his temporary absence.
There are currently 11 bureaux, each headed by a Director of Bureau. Together,
they form the Government Secretariat. There are 61 departments and agencies
whose heads are responsible to the Directors of Bureaux for the direction of their
departments and the efficient implementation of approved policies. The Audit
Commission, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) and the Office
of The Ombudsman report directly to the Chief Executive.
The Chief Secretary for Administration, the Financial Secretary, the Secretary for
Justice and the 11 Directors of Bureaux (also known as Secretaries of Bureaux) are
politically appointed Principal Officials. They are held accountable for matters
occurring within their respective portfolios.
Role of the Chief Secretary for Administration
The Chief Secretary for Administration is the leading Principal Official in the
HKSAR Government. He is a member of the Executive Council and the most senior
official to deputise for the Chief Executive when the latter is not able to discharge his
duties for a short period.
The Chief Secretary for Administration supports the Chief Executive in
administering Hong Kong and advises him on policy matters. He plays an important
role in policy coordination, which is particularly important in areas that cut across
policy bureaux. The Chief Secretary for Administration is responsible for overseeing
specific priority areas of the Chief Executive's policy agenda, forging a closer and
more effective working relationship with the Legislative Council, and drawing up the
Government's legislative programme. He also exercises statutory functions vested in
him by law, such as those concerning the handling of appeals and certain public
Role of the Financial Secretary
The Financial Secretary's primary responsibility is to assist the Chief Executive in
overseeing policy formulation and implementation in financial, monetary, economic,
trade and employment matters. He exercises control over the Exchange Fund with the
assistance of the Monetary Authority. He is a member of the Executive Council.
The Financial Secretary is also in charge of the Government Budget. He is
responsible under the Public Finance Ordinance for laying before the Legislative
Council each year the Government's estimates of revenue and expenditure. In his
annual Budget Speech, he outlines the Government's vision and policies for
sustainable economic development, and he presents budgetary proposals and moves
the Appropriation Bill, which gives legal effect to the annual expenditure proposals
contained in the Budget.
Central Policy Unit
The Central Policy Unit provides advice on policy issues to meet the special
requirements of the Chief Executive, the Chief Secretary for Administration and the
Financial Secretary and submit reports directly to them.
The unit consults widely with business and professional circles, political
organisations and concern groups, and the academic community. It undertakes in-depth
examinations of complex policy issues, analyses options, conducts soundings of
community feedback and recommends solutions for the Government's internal
consideration. It also carries out research studies on various issues in Hong Kong and
the Mainland, with particular emphasis on the Pearl River Delta and the Pan-Pearl
River Delta Region. The unit is responsible for coordinating the annual Policy Address
The unit also provides secretariat support for the Commission on Strategic
Development. The commission organised an Economic Summit in September 2006 to
discuss how Hong Kong should respond to the challenges and opportunities arising
from the Central Government's 11th Five-Year Plan. As a follow-up to the Economic
Summit, the Commission submitted to the Chief Executive an Action Agenda in
January 2007, setting out specific actions to be taken by the Government, the
business sector and the relevant public organisations.
The Efficiency Unit reports directly to the Chief Secretary for Administration and
is tasked with pursuing public sector reform. It is an internal government agency
providing management consultancy services. By combining its extensive
understanding of policies, its specialised knowledge and its broad contacts and
linkages throughout the Government and the private sector, the unit seeks to
become the preferred consulting partner of government departments. It provides
strategic and implementable solutions on people-based government services.
The unit operates an integrated call centre which provides a one-stop enquiry
and complaint handling service for 16 departments. It advocates public private
partnership and 'citizen-centric' service design and delivery in the public sector. The
unit is also spearheading a licence simplification programme, customer management
initiatives, and the development of a Youth Portal.
Sustainable Development Unit
The Sustainable Development Unit, established under the Chief Secretary for
Administration's Office, promotes sustainable development in both the Government
and the community and provides secretariat support to the Council for Sustainable
The council was appointed by the Chief Executive in March 2003 to promote
sustainable development in Hong Kong. The council carried out its first community
engagement exercise in 2004 to consult stakeholders on sustainability issues in three
pilot areas: solid waste management, renewable energy and urban living space. The
council continued its engagement process by inviting views on Hong Kong's
population policy in 2006, and by making plans to initiate another round of
discussions with stakeholders on better air quality in 2007.
The council has invited applications to the Sustainable Development Fund three
times since 2003, and will continue to invite organisations and individuals to apply.
So far, a total of 14 projects have been approved, involving total grants of $12.5
million. Completed projects include an educational programme on sustainable
development for the primary school sector and a project to encourage students to
submit creative designs relevant to the theme of preserving community heritage.
One of the unit's major tasks is to oversee the implementation of a sustainability
assessment system within the Government to facilitate the integration of
sustainability considerations in the decision-making process. All bureaux and
departments are required to conduct sustainability assessments of their major
initiatives and programmes and explain the sustainability implications in their
submissions to the Policy Committee and Executive Council.
The Civil Service
The civil service employs about 4 per cent of Hong Kong's labour force. It
provides staff for all government departments and other units of the Administration.
At December 31, 2006, the total strength of the civil service was 153 800 (excluding
about 1 400 judges and judicial officers and ICAC officers).
Overall policy responsibility for the management of the civil service lies with the
Civil Service Bureau of the Government Secretariat. The bureau's remit includes
making policies on appointments, pay and conditions of service, staff management,
manpower planning, training and development, conduct and discipline and use of
official languages in the civil service. The bureau is also the focal point for
consultation with major staff associations. It takes care of the management of
Administrative Officer, Executive Officer, Official Languages Officer, Training Officer,
Simultaneous Interpreter, Calligraphist as well as the clerical and secretarial grades
staff. Management of the civil service is governed mainly by three important
instruments: the Public Service (Administration) Order, the Public Service (Disciplinary)
Regulation and the Civil Service Regulations, all made with the authority of the Chief
The Public Service Commission is an independent statutory body set up under
the Public Service Commission Ordinance. Its fundamental role is to advise the Chief
Executive on appointments, promotions and discipline in the civil service. The
Government is also advised on civil service pay and conditions of service by three
independent bodies: the Standing Committee on Directorate Salaries and Conditions
of Service (directorate officers excluding judges and judicial officers and the
disciplined services, but including the heads of the disciplined services); the Standing
Committee on Disciplined Services Salaries and Conditions of Service (the disciplined
services except the heads of disciplined services); and the Standing Commission on
Civil Service Salaries and Conditions of Service (all other civil servants).
In accordance with the Basic Law, Principal Officials must be Chinese citizens
who are permanent residents of the HKSAR with no right of abode in any foreign
country and have ordinarily resided in Hong Kong for a continuous period of not less
than 15 years. It is also a Basic Law requirement that new recruits to the civil service
on or after July 1, 1997 should normally be permanent residents of the HKSAR, save
for those who fall within the exceptions provided in Articles 99 and 101 of the Basic
Subject to the above policy, appointment to the civil service is based on open
and fair competition which aims to recruit the best person for the job. Promotion is
performance-based and not a reward for long service. As the largest employer in
Hong Kong, the Government takes the lead in employing people with disabilities to
help them integrate into the community and to ensure that they are given equal
opportunity in recruitment to the civil service.
The Government monitors closely the turnover in the civil service for manpower
planning purposes to keep manpower at a level commensurate with service demand.
Overall wastage in the civil service was about 2.5 per cent in 2005-06. Given the
importance of continuity at the management level, the Government has a well-established
staff planning mechanism to review the succession planning for senior
staff, identify and groom officers with potential for advancement to senior
management and develop a pool of talent for senior positions.
The Government values regular communication and consultation with staff.
There are four consultative councils at the central level: the Senior Civil Service
Council, the Model Scale 1 Staff Consultative Council, the Disciplined Services
Consultative Council and the Police Force Council. More than 80 consultative
committees operate at the departmental level. The Civil Service Newsletter is
published regularly to provide an added link with serving and retired civil servants.
Civil Service Reform
To ensure that Hong Kong continues to maintain a world-class civil service which
keeps pace with changes in society, the Government has introduced a number of
reforms since it released its public consultation document in 1999. The reforms cover
the following five main areas:
1. Streamlining the Civil Service Establishment
The Government has set a target to reduce the civil service establishment to
around 160 000 by 2006-07. Through process re-engineering, organisational review
and outsourcing, the civil service establishment has been reduced by about 18 per
cent from about 198 000 posts in early 2000 to about 162 400 at the end of
December 2006. Two rounds of the Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) were
introduced one each in 2000 and 2003 to enable staff in a total of 232 designated
grades with an identified or anticipated staff surplus to retire from the service
voluntarily with compensation and pension payments. Some 15 100 applicants have
been approved to leave the service voluntarily to bring about long-term savings to the
Government. In addition, a general recruitment freeze was imposed on April 1, 2003.
2. Reviewing Civil Service Pay and Benefits
The policy for civil service pay is to offer sufficient remuneration to attract,
retain, and motivate staff of a suitable calibre to provide the public with an effective,
efficient and high quality service. In order that civil service pay can be regarded as fair
and reasonable by both civil servants who provide the service and the public who foot
the bill, the Government adopts the principle that civil service pay should be broadly
comparable with private sector pay.
As part of ongoing efforts to modernise the management of the civil service, the
Government has embarked on an exercise to develop an improved civil service pay
adjustment mechanism for the long term. Carrying out pay level surveys periodically
is an important part of the improved mechanism. In 2005, the Government
commissioned a professional consultant to conduct a pay level survey. The survey's
job inspection process was completed in September 2006 and the fieldwork, which
involved collecting data using 1 April 2006 as the reference date, was completed in
The Government has developed, in consultation with the staff sides
representative and the advisory bodies on civil services salaries and conditions of
service, a general framework for the conduct of future pay level surveys and a
general framework for the application of the pay level survey results. Based on the
general framework for the application of the pay level survey as endorsed by the
Chief Executive in Council in April 2007, civil service pay as at 1 April 2006 is broadly
comparable with that of the private sector and no adjustment is required as at that
Apart from salaries, civil servants are eligible for fringe benefits depending on
their terms of appointment, rank, salary point, length of service, and other eligibility
rules. The Government has been taking active steps over the years to modernise the
provision of fringe benefits to civil servants, including ceasing or stricter control of
such allowances to new recruits in keeping with present day conditions. Following a
comprehensive review of fringe benefit type of civil service allowances, during which
staff and advisory bodies were consulted, the Government implemented new
measures to modernise the fringe benefits package. The new measures went into
effect in September 2006.
3. Improving the Entry and Exit System
The New Entry System for civil service recruits has given the Government greater
flexibility in making appointments while a new retirement benefits system, the Civil
Service Provident Fund Scheme, provides retirement benefits for officers appointed on
New Entry terms.
The Management-initiated Retirement Scheme is now in place to allow the
Government, for the purpose of organisational improvement, to initiate the early
retirement of individual directorate officers.
4. Providing Diversified Training
The Civil Service Training and Development Institute, under the Civil Service
Bureau, formulates training policies and gives support to bureaux/departments in
training and development matters. The institute focuses on four core service areas:
senior executive development, national studies programmes, human resource
management consultancy service and promotion of a continuous learning culture.
For senior executive development, a variety of leadership programmes led by
world-class professionals and academics are offered to directorate and potential
directorate officers. Advisory services for human resources development and
directorate succession planning are provided to departments. Attachment and
exchange programmes with the private sector and the Mainland's municipal and
provincial governments, including Shanghai, Beijing, Hangzhou and Guangdong
Province, have been arranged for senior officers to gain wider exposure.
National studies programmes include courses at Mainland institutes such as the
National School of Administration, Foreign Affairs University, Tsinghua University,
Peking University, and Sun Yat-sen University. There are also local programmes on
national affairs and the Basic Law for staff at different levels. In addition to local
academics, the institute invites officials and scholars from the Mainland to speak at
national affairs seminars. Through the provision of advisory services to departments,
the institute disseminates best practices in human resources development covering
subjects including training needs analysis, learning strategies, development of
competency profiles and performance management systems.
To promote a continuous learning culture among civil servants, the training
resources available on the e-learning portal, Cyber Learning Centre (CLC) Plus, were
enriched and upgraded in 2006. The number of registered users of the CLC Plus has
increased from 55 000 in 2005 to about 65 000 in 2006.
5. Reinforcing Performance and Good Conduct
Staff are given awards, commendation letters and other commendations for
their commitment and contributions to the work they do. The Outstanding Service
Award Scheme recognises the efforts and achievements of bureaux and departments
in their pursuit of service excellence and is an integral part of the government effort
to provide a customer-oriented service to the public. Since the establishment of the
Secretariat on Civil Service Discipline to centrally process disciplinary cases, the
Government has introduced further measures to shorten the time taken in processing
cases. It has also delegated further authority on discipline matters to heads of
departments, in the interest of empowering bureaux and departments to assume
greater ownership in human resource management. The mechanism for handling
staff whose work is persistently substandard was reviewed and further streamlined in
2005 to expedite their compulsory retirement.
As part of its ongoing efforts to embed a culture of probity in the civil service,
the Civil Service Bureau, in collaboration with the Independent Commission Against
Corruption and the Works Branch of the Environment, Transport and Works Bureau
drew up an enhanced integrity management programme for its works departments.
The Civil Service Bureau has further enriched the reference materials available on the
electronic Resource Centre on Integrity Management accessible online to officers
responsible for integrity management in bureaux and departments. In December
2006, the Civil Service Bureau and the Independent Commission Against Corruption
jointly launched an ethical leadership programme to strengthen further civil service
integrity and ethics.