LCQ3: Duties of Permanent Secretary for Environment and Director of Environmental Protection

     Following is a question by Ir Dr Hon Lo Wai-kwok and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, in the Legislative Council today (April 20):


     The Permanent Secretary for the Environment is responsible for formulating environmental policies, while the Director of Environmental Protection (DEP) is responsible for executing such policies (including carrying out certain statutory functions).  Since July 1, 2007, these two offices have been taken up by the same person.  Some members of the community are concerned about the role conflicts arising from one person performing the dual roles of policy formulation and execution, and therefore suggest that the authorities should consider reverting to the previous practice of appointing different persons to take up the two offices and filling the DEP post with a professional grade staff member of the Environmental Protection Department (EPD), so as to ensure the impartiality of DEP in performing the relevant duties.  In response to a question raised by a member at the meeting of the Panel on Environmental Affairs of this Council on October 22, 2012, the Secretary for the Environment (Secretary) indicated that there would be room for improvement and review in this regard.  As it has been more than three years since the Secretary made the aforesaid response, will the Government inform this Council, whether the authorities have, in the light of the concerns and recommendations of members of the community, reviewed the division of work between and operation of the Environment Bureau and EPD, as well as the personnel arrangements for the aforesaid two posts, etc.; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) and the Environment Branch (EB) of the former Environmental, Transport and Works Bureau were merged on April 1, 2005 to achieve synergy between policy formulation and implementation, as well as to enhance operational efficiency and effectiveness.

     Upon the merger, the EB and the EPD were responsible for the enforcement of environmental legislation, environmental monitoring, development and management of waste disposal facilities, management of the environmental impact assessment process and participation in the town planning process, conduct of activities designed to raise environmental awareness, and the day-to-day implementation of environmental policies.  They were also responsible for the whole process of policy formulation, including the review and revision of existing policies and the conception of new ones, as well as the required technical/scientific background research and data collection.  The merger could pool government resources for implementing environmental policies and management on the one hand, and could enhance accountability for policies amongst officers responsible for their execution on the other.  Under the merged structure, the Permanent Secretary for the EB also held office as the Director of Environmental Protection (DEP), and had to perform statutory duties under the relevant legislation.

     Subsequent to the re-organisation of Government Secretariat bureaux on July 1, 2007, a new Environment Bureau (ENB) was formed overseeing not only EB policies but also polices on energy and sustainable development.  To reflect the expanded policy portfolio, the Government has made necessary adjustment to the ENB establishment while maintaining the same merged structure (with the EPD).  The Permanent Secretary for the Environment continues to hold office as the DEP and, as before, has to perform statutory duties under the relevant legislation.

     The existing merged structure of the ENB and EPD was worked out by the Government having regard to the need for enhancing environmental protection and the efforts required, and it was established according to standing procedures, including the vetting and approval of the Legislative Council.  The Government has all along formulated policies and enforced laws in a fair, just, transparent and law-abiding manner.  The existing structure does not lead to any conflicts of interest.

     It is the Government's policy to review departmental structures and manpower as required from time to time, with a view to achieving higher operational efficiency and effectiveness, and ensuring that policy formulation and implementation keep pace with the times.

Ends/Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Issued at HKT 12:49