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Unformatted text preview: Spring 2004 L4 Lecture 4
The Civil Service
(A) Basic Principles of the Operation of the Civil Service in the West
(a) Political neutrality(政治中立)—civil servants should only be responsible for
implementation of policy. They should be value-neutral, their own political beliefs
should not affect their work, and their positions should not be affected because of
(b) Civil servants are guaranteed life tenure (終身聘用), so that they can be impartial (公
正無私) and do not have to fear political pressures.
(c) Bureaucratic (科層) operation—strict hierarchy, with subordinates obeying the
superior. Detailed division of labor and specialization.
(d) Tasks are clearly defined by written rules. Civil servants have to work according to
clear written rules and regulations in an impersonal manner.
(e) Civil servants are on a fixed and structured salary scale. They have relatively good
fringe benefits, good retirement benefits, and job security. This will help to attract
talent and encourage civil servants to be incorrupt and work according to the rules.
(B) The Generalist Dominated System The 11 bureaus (決策局) are responsible for policy-making in their respective areas.
They will also oversee implementation and be accountable for the results. Each
bureau controls several departments(署), about 60 in total, which are responsible for
execution of the policies. The bureaus are staffed by administrative officers (AOs)(政務官) —who are the core
and cream of the bureaucratic polity. About 500 AOs assisted the POAS officials in
decision-making. They are generalists who have all-rounded knowledge but not
specialist knowledge, and good at language and presentation skills. The AOs serve and rotate in different departments or bureaus from time to time. This
provides innovation of policies, reduces departmentalism, broadens the perspectives of
decision makers, and facilitates coordination and communication. For example, Anson
Chan (陳方安生) served in the Dept. of Agricultural and Fisheries, the Urban Service
Dept., Finance Branch, the CNTA (政務總署), the Social Service Branch, then head of
1 Spring 2004 L4 Social Welfare Dept, Secretary for Economic Services, and then Chief Secretary. The criticisms against this generalist-dominated system include:
the lack of special knowledge in policy-making and knowledge in specific
Rotation means that the AOs are sometimes not familiar with the policy when
they first come to the post.
(c) It leads to lower morale of the specialists, since their promotion chances and influence
in decision-making is limited in the generalist-dominated system.
(C) Public Sector Reform 1989 (公營部門改革)
Rapid expansion of government services, spending and civil service establishment
in Hong Kong in the 70s and 80s.
New Public Management (NPM) was the dominant trend in welfare states in US
and Europe since the 1980s. The main thrust of the reform was to minimize the size and
activity of the state, to rely on the private sector to provide services, and to use privatesector management methods to manage the public sector.
The Finance Branch published a document on Public Sector Reform in 1989. The
trend was continued and accelerated after 1997, as budget deficits became a big problem
facing the government after the Asian economic crisis.
1. Improve efficiency, make a better use of resources; including saving resources, “do
more with less”;
2. Develop a consumer-oriented culture; customer satisfaction as an important criterion
for success and performance;
3. Increase flexibility, delegate authority to lower levels so as to make better use of
4. Management for performance, performance appraisal as an important criterion for
resource allocation; value for money (衡工量值)
Major Reform Measures
1. Corporatization (公司化) —govt. departments were turned into govt-owned
corporations so that they can work in a business-like manner. E.g., the KCRC.
2 Spring 2004 L4 2. Trading funds (營運基金)—some depts become trading funds which are then required
to recover their own costs. They remain government depts, and their employees remain
civil servants, but they then have to devise methods to raise revenue. (E.g., Post Office)
3. Contracting out (外判) – some jobs are contracted out to private companies (e.g.,
management of carparks in public housing estates, collection of garbage). This will
reduce civil service establishment.
4. Privatization-- Some corporations’ shares are sold to private investors (e.g., MTRC) to
draw in revenue.
5. Streamlining of government structure and saving of resources. For example, the
Enhanced Productivity Program (EPP) (資源增值計劃) in 1998 asked all departments
to improve productivity by 5% in three years.
6. Performance pledges (服務承諾)—certain performance standards, which the service
providers have to meet, are set so that the public can monitor the performance of the
7. User-pay (用者自付) is established as a principle. Many services are no longer free,
and the fees will be used to cover part of the costs.
8. Internal competition between public service units: units that perform better, according
to set performance indicators, will receive more resources (e.g., universities).
After 1999, because of the budget deficit, the government used different means to cut
down the civil service establishment:
Vacancies left by retirement or resignation are not usually filled, and the tasks will
be shared by other colleagues.
Cutting of civil service entry point salary in 2000, review of all benefits and
allowances, and paycuts in 2002, 2004 and 2005.
Voluntary retirement schemes—civil servants get some extra compensation if they
Because of these efforts, the civil service establishment was cut from 198,000 in
early 1999 to 175,000 in mid-2003.
Problems and Criticisms against the PSR
1. Continued corporatization, privatization, paycuts, reduction of benefits, etc., affect the
job prospects and employment conditions of the civil servants. It hurt their morale and
led to protests. The paycut in 2002 brought the government into direct confrontation
with the civil service unions.
2. Privatization, corporatization, and contracting out led to diffusion of responsibility and
accountability problems (e.g., the building of public housing). As there are more and
3 Spring 2004 L4 3.
4. 5. 6.
7. more operators involved, and many of them non-government, it increases the costs and
difficulty of monitoring.
Sometimes money is saved, but the quality of service is affected because there are
fewer staff handling the services (e.g. EPP).
Sometimes the quality of service is improved only at the expense of the customers
paying more money (e.g. trading funds, corporations). The trend of user-pay places
heavier burden on the lower class.
Contracting out and privatization led to ever-worsening working conditions of the
contracted workers in private companies. It caused labor problems such as lack of
control, low job security and very low-paid jobs. Sometimes the quality of service is
affected because the subcontractor tries to maximize their profits and tries to
economize on labor or material costs.
The focus on performance measurement sometimes leads to goal displacement, or
emphasis only on things that can be measured—“what gets measured gets done”.
Much more resources spent on internal administrative work, monitoring and
performance appraisal, rather than providing services. 4 ...
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This note was uploaded on 09/16/2010 for the course SOSC SOSC198 taught by Professor Michelle during the Spring '09 term at HKUST.
- Spring '09