Following is the speech by the Secretary for the Civil Service, Mr Joseph W P Wong, at the "Leadership Forum 2005 - Successes through Ethical Governance" today (June 16):
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues,
Good morning. I am delighted to have the opportunity to address this important gathering. Before I begin, I would like to welcome all of our visitors to Hong Kong. I hope you will enjoy your stay here and experience our many unique attractions. As Asia's world city, Hong Kong is a safe and efficient place where everything works and where you can buy a variety of quality products and enjoy the best Chinese cuisines.
There is so much for promoting Hong Kong as a tourists' paradise. I will turn back to the main theme of this Forum - "Successes through Ethical Governance". This theme addresses a topic close to my heart as the Principal Official responsible for civil service matters. We are indebted to the six Chambers of Commerce and the Hong Kong Institute of Directors for their sterling support in organising this Forum. We have a common objective: to work together to foster and maintain a culture of honesty and integrity in the workplace. Hong Kong's future depends on it.
Ladies and gentlemen, an honest and clean civil service is a cornerstone of effective governance. In Hong Kong, we are committed to maintaining high standards of integrity and probity among Government employees.
I am pleased to note that since the last Leadership Forum in 2002, we have continued to uphold the high standards of integrity of our civil service. In fact, we have seen encouraging signs of improvement in the past three years.
For instance, in 2002, our ICAC received about 1,600 reports of alleged corruption by civil servants. This was in fact a small number when compared with some 160,000 civil servants in Hong Kong. Yet, by 2004, this number dropped to about 1,300, a decline of over 20%.
I would like to add that the vast majority of these allegations are actually not substantiated. In 2002, only 25 civil servants were convicted of corruption practice; in 2004 the figure dropped to 16, and this should be seen against the fact that we have the most capable team of corruption fighters in our ICAC, a fully independent judiciary and the most stringent anti-corruption law in Hong Kong.
I'll give another example: According to a World Bank report issued last month, the quality of governance in Hong Kong has risen significantly since 2002. And one of the key contributing factors was Hong Kong's solid score in controlling corruption.
But there is no room for complacency. The Civil Service Bureau which I head works closely with the ICAC and other government departments to promote and safeguard integrity in the civil service. We adopt a three-pronged approach - education, prevention and sanction - to entrench an ethical culture in the civil service.
I do not want to bore you with all the details on the many initiatives which we have been taking to raise the level of integrity in the civil service. I just want to share with you three examples.
First, last year, the Civil Service Bureau and ICAC launched the "Civil Service Integrity Entrenchment Programme". Under the programme, officers from the ICAC and Civil Service Bureau visit departments to discuss with them what further measures they can take to combat corrupt practices, and to maintain vigilance in upholding integrity in the workplace. These visits involved more than 30 departments which have over 100,000 staff, and have resulted in a broad consensus on where to focus our efforts.
Second, many departments have had their operational procedures critically reviewed by the ICAC's Corruption Prevention Department. These studies cover various aspects of government functions, such as law enforcement, licensing and regulatory work, procurement, contract management, staff management and public works. In the past three years alone, some 220 such studies have been undertaken, involving 58 departments. The extensive work on this front bears testimony to our belief that the most effective way to remove corruption opportunities is to make the procedures transparent and accountable.
Third, we have updated a guidebook entitled "Civil Servants' Guide to Good Practices". This guide incorporates the core values of the civil service such as honesty and integrity and sets out, in simple language, the standards of behaviour and conduct expected of government employees at all levels. The guide also reminds civil servants that misconduct in public office is a common law offence and prosecution action will be taken against offenders which we have indeed done so on a number of recent cases.
These are just a few examples of our efforts. If you want to know more, you are welcome to visit the Civil Service Bureau's website(http://www.csb.gov.hk), which provides a more detailed account of our work on this front.
Ladies and gentlemen, today's forum brings together senior executives and leaders from the business and public sectors. We are honoured to have a number of prominent speakers from the Mainland, Australia, Japan, the UK, the US and Hong Kong to share their insights and experience on the key issues of integrity management and corporate governance. I am sure all of us will be wiser and more committed to ethical governance at the end of the forum.
Thank you very much.
Ends/Thursday, June 16, 2005