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LCQ4: Non-Civil Service Contract Staff

     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Pan Pey-chyou and a reply by the Secretary for the Civil Service, Miss Denise Yue, in the Legislative Council today (June 22):


     Since the Government began to implement the Non-Civil Service Contract (NCSC) Staff Scheme in 1999, various bureaux and government departments (B/Ds) have employed additional staff on contract terms to meet their service needs which are short-term, time-limited, seasonal or subject to market fluctuations.  At present, there are a total of about 16 000 full-time NCSC staff employed by various B/Ds. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the total number of NCSC posts converted to civil service posts by various B/Ds in the past five years, the number of NCSC staff employed to take up these posts and converted to permanent establishment, as well as the average length of service of these staff before such conversion;

(b) given that quite a number of long-serving NCSC staff have been rejected when their posts were converted to civil service posts because they were not qualified to apply for such posts, whether the authorities can consider afresh establishing a flexible mechanism which allows NCSC staff to become civil servants through "internal recruitment" or enables NCSC staff with experience to remain in office, so as to avoid succession problems; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(c) whether the Civil Service Bureau (CSB) will review the employment of NCSC staff by various B/Ds annually and cap the number of these staff in various B/Ds; if it will, when the relevant plan will be implemented; if not, of the reasons for that; given that various B/Ds have employed NCSC staff to carry out departmental administration and support duties with different remuneration packages, whether CSB will consider setting up "a central administration and support unit" with CSB conducting recruitment exercises centrally for the provision of temporary support services, such as administrative, clerical and information technology services, etc. for various B/Ds?



     The NCSC Staff Scheme, introduced in 1999, aims at providing B/Ds with a flexible means of employment to meet service needs which do not require or are not appropriate to be delivered by civil servants, e.g. some service needs which are time-limited, seasonal, or subject to market fluctuations; or require staff to work less than conditioned hours of civil servants; or require tapping the latest expertise in a particular area; or where the mode of delivery of some public services is under review or likely to be changed.  NCSC staff are not permanent staff, while civil servants are employed on permanent terms to meet service needs which are long-term and should be delivered by civil servants.  Therefore, the terms of employment and conditions of service of NCSC staff are entirely different from those of civil servants and it is inappropriate to compare the two.  B/Ds may determine the employment package of their NCSC staff having regard to the job nature, the labour market and the administrative and operational considerations, provided that the terms offered are, overall speaking, no less favourable than those prescribed under the Employment Ordinance (Cap. 57) and no more favourable than those applicable to civil servants in comparable civil service ranks or with comparable levels of responsibilities.

     After briefly explaining the NCSC Staff Scheme, I proceed to reply to different parts of the question.  

     With regard to the first part of the question, the Civil Service Bureau (CSB), jointly with B/Ds, conducted a special review on the employment situation of NCSC staff in 2006.  The review had then identified 4 004 NCSC positions which involved work that should more appropriately be performed by civil servants and should be replaced by civil service posts gradually.  As at end last year (i.e. December 31, 2010), about 3 470 of such positions had been phased out upon expiry of the employment contracts of the concerned NCSC staff and the recruitment of the replacement civil servants.  For the remaining 530 NCSC positions, most of them will be gradually phased out upon expiry of the employment contracts of the concerned NCSC staff and the recruitment of the replacement civil servants within this year.  

     Moreover, after completion of the 2006 review, B/Ds have kept their employment of NCSC staff under review from time to time to determine whether there are any other NCSC positions that should be replaced by civil service posts.  Since 2006, B/Ds had identified another 1 100 NCSC positions which involved work that should more appropriately be carried out by civil servants.  About half of these positions had been replaced by civil service posts on or before September 30, 2010.

     CSB does not have complete information on the number of NCSC staff employed as civil servants in the past five years.  Based on our available record in the past three and a half years, i.e. from August 2007 to February 2011, applications were received from NCSC staff performing duties comparable to the civil service posts under recruitment in some recruitment exercises conducted.  In these recruitment exercises, the number of successful candidates who accepted offers of appointment and reported duty totalled 9 774.  Among them, 3 075 were former NCSC staff performing duties comparable to the civil service posts under recruitment.  CSB does not have information on the average length of NCSC service of these former NCSC staff prior to their employment as civil servants.

     Regarding the second part of the question, to put it simply, the Government's recruitment policy is fair competition and meritocracy.  Generally speaking, B/Ds will select the most suitable persons to fill civil service vacancies through open recruitment process.  We welcome NCSC staff to apply for civil service jobs they are interested in through open recruitment.  Nevertheless, they must meet the academic qualifications, experience and other basic entry requirements which are set according to operational needs of the civil service posts concerned.  Since relevant working experience is one of the factors to be taken into account in B/Ds' assessment of job applicants, we consider that NCSC staff who meet the basic entry requirements of various civil service ranks should generally enjoy a competitive edge over other applicants because of their working experience in the Government.  

     B/Ds may conduct "in-service" recruitment where appropriate to select suitable persons from serving civil servants to fill a small number of civil service vacancies, e.g. where the required skills and experience render some civil service posts more appropriately to be taken up by serving civil servants.  As NCSC staff are not civil servants, and that their situation and nature of employment are different from that of civil servants, "in-service" recruitment is not applicable to them.  

     Besides, all along the Government has a mechanism in place for succession planning of the civil service.  The Government has also provided systematic training and development opportunities for civil servants so that they may have wider exposure and acquire the necessary knowledge and skills for discharging their duties and getting prepared for greater responsibilities.  All B/Ds will continue to provide training to new recruits and serving civil servants at various ranks.

     With regard to the third part of the question, to ensure the proper operation of the NCSC Staff Scheme, we introduced improvement measures in November 2006 for the engagement and management of NCSC staff to ensure that employment of NCSC staff by B/Ds fully complies with the ambit of the Scheme.  These measures included setting a ceiling for the number of NCSC staff for each B/D in the light of specific operational needs, and requiring a B/D to seek approval from the CSB for the employment of NCSC staff over and above the prescribed ceiling.

     In the recruitment of NCSC staff, having regard to the job nature of NCSC positions, B/Ds will flexibly set entry requirements, employment period, working hours, etc. to meet specific service needs.  As such, the job contents and entry requirements for NCSC staff who provide temporary administrative, clerical or information technology services may vary.  It will be more flexible and efficient and better cater for different situations and needs of various B/Ds if individual B/Ds employ their NCSC staff and determine the terms and conditions of employment for their staff according to the criteria I just mentioned in paragraph one above.  In this connection, the proposal to set up a "central administration and support unit" and centralise the recruitment of NCSC staff whose employment is temporary in nature is not practical.

     Thank you, President.

Ends/Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Issued at HKT 14:55


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