Following is the speech (English only) by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Donald Tsang, at the "Serving the Community Conference" at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre this (March 4) morning:
Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues,
Thank you all for taking time to participate in this important forum where we will explore issues relating to how the Government should respond to demands for more efficient and effective delivery of services to the public.
Ignatius of Loyola said, "Teach us to give and not to count the cost." At a personal level, this is a most admirable sentiment and one that so many in the world have recently demonstrated in the aftermath of the Tsunami. They recognize that no government in the world has unlimited resources to meet the whole range of needs of each and every citizen, particularly in times of stress.
The community's needs are highly diverse - education, housing, public health, public works and financial regulation to name but a few, and its expectations are continuously changing.
The delivery of public services is not a simple task. We have to balance fairness and integrity with speed of response, public transparency with individual privacy, and social welfare with low taxation. In recent years we have done much to improve our service. We have, for example, implemented the performance pledge programme, cut Government red tape and reduced regulation, improved public access to decision-making processes, and established a number of departmental one stop shops. LegCo, District Boards, NGOs (Non-Government Organisations), the media, and individuals continue to press us to do even better.
Citizens view government as a single entity. They have no interest in the internal functional boundaries of government. Their level of satisfaction improves when they see the Administration work across boundaries, as it did in Team Clean. They take scant regard of the organizational rupture, procedural short-circuiting and high level resource input, that cross-functional interventions often entail.
I believe that Hong Kong has much to be proud of. We have a developed, service industry-led economy. We have a reputation for quality. Our airport, our public transport systems, our hotels, our banks and commercial organisations all rank highly when compared to their peers elsewhere. These set the standards by which the civil service and Government are judged. Beyond this, our citizens regularly travel to major cities overseas and often draw comparison with their experience there.
Nonetheless, we have to respond to rising expectations; to see citizens as our customers not supplicants; to put ourselves in the position of the service recipients in redesigning our service delivery; and to meet demands for higher standards.
Developments in technology continue to provide opportunities for us to improve significantly services while managing our costs. In this regard, we need to build on our initial successes, such as ESD life, the integrated call centre, and individual departmental initiatives. We need to put the citizen first, and most especially to work across government in a joined-up way. We need to determine if our efforts are helping people in the most effective manner, whether individuals and businesses are being allowed to grow and prosper, and whether our actions foster a positive relationship between government and the citizen.
The purpose of today's conference is to explore what it is the community desires by way of access to public services, how we can determine those desires, and how best they can be met. To this end the Efficiency Unit has assembled a most impressive group of experts to help us explore these issues from all angles.
This morning, John McKean from the USA, will address us on the desire of citizens to be treated as customers not supplicants. Jane King from Australia will tell us about the great strides the State of Queensland and the City of Brisbane have taken in putting in place truly customer centric services. Guy Gordon from Canada will draw on the experiences of the Province of Manitoba and the Canadian Federal Government in describing the life cycle of development of citizen services, particularly in surveying citizen's needs.
I would like to extend a traditional warm Hong Kong welcome to them all. I am sure we will learn a lot from our visitors and, hopefully, they will be able to take back with them solutions and concepts they have picked up during the conference.
This afternoon, the conference will bring together local business and community leaders, and senior colleagues from within the Government, to discuss both what the Hong Kong citizen expects by way of service and what currently is on offer. I would like to thank Christine Loh, Anthony Nightingale, The Honourable Bernard Chan, Alice Lau, Howard Dickson and Andrew Long for giving up their time to be with us today.
I urge you all to participate fully; not only to listen and to learn but to challenge and question. Hopefully at the end of today we shall go away inspired to pursue opportunities of working with your colleagues across government to deliver the best, most cost effective services available.
I want to leave you with a thought - the only place where "success" comes before "work" is in a dictionary! We will only be successful in our quest to deliver quality services, if we invest the time and effort necessary.
Ends/Friday, March 4, 2005