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LCQ19: Engagement of information technology contract staff by government bureaux/departments
     Following is a question by Hon Luk Chung-hung and a written reply by the Secretary for Innovation and Technology, Mr Nicholas W Yang, in the Legislative Council today (June 14):
     Currently, various policy bureaux/government departments (B/Ds) may, through the body-shopping contract (commonly known as T-contract) centrally managed by the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer, engage contractors to employ information technology (IT) contract staff under a term contract (T-contract staff) to provide IT services and support. Some trade unions have recently relayed to me that the remuneration packages of such staff are inferior to those of civil servants with comparable responsibilities. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it will include the T-contract staff's remuneration packages (including wage levels and working hours) pledged by tenderers in their tendering documents as the assessment criteria for T-contracts; if so, of the details (including the weightings of such criteria); if not, the reasons for that;
(2) whether it will set and publish the minimum remuneration packages that contractors are required to offer to T-contract staff of various ranks, so as to prevent the wages of such staff from being suppressed or wrongfully deducted;
(3) whether it will regularly conduct random checks or request contractors to submit the records for wage payments of T-contract staff, so as to monitor whether contractors have paid wages in accordance with the remuneration package provisions set out in the employment contracts they signed with their staff; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(4) whether it will step up its efforts in publicising among administrators of T-contracts, contractors and T-contract staff in various B/Ds the labour rights and interests to which such type of employees are entitled; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
     The Government strives to promote information technology (IT) development in Hong Kong and enhance e-Government services. As government bureaux/departments (B/Ds) developed more IT systems to support policy implementation, the number of IT staff required has increased correspondingly. In the past five years, the Government implemented more than 1 000 new IT projects with an overall expenditure reaching $10 billion. Since the numbers of IT staff and the period of engagement required by different projects vary, the Government, with its years of experience in developing IT projects, has put in place an effective manpower arrangement, namely to pool together civil servants, T-contract staff and the service contractors to form a professional team of public-private collaboration. The engagement of T-contract staff can complement the service provided by IT staff directly employed by the Government or non-civil service contract staff in order to meet the changing IT manpower demand. This arrangement can facilitate the Government to tap the market's latest expertise and pool of professionals for developing and supporting IT systems and programmes, and foster technology exchange between IT personnel in the Government and the private sector.
     Our reply to different parts of the question is as follows:
(1) to (3) The procurement of T-contract services has been conducted in accordance with the principles and procedures stipulated in the Stores and Procurement Regulations, i.e. to secure the most advantageous offers which best serve public interest through fair, open and competitive bidding.
     T-contract staff are professionals. The requirements on the scope of work, professional knowledge, skills and experience, etc., of individual T-contract staff positions are different. The remuneration packages offered to T-contract staff by the T-contractors would depend on the educational qualifications, professional knowledge, relevant skills and experience of individual staff, as well as the prevailing job market situation, etc. The flourishing IT market in recent years has helped keep the remuneration packages of T-contract staff at reasonable and competitive levels. Based on the understanding of the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO), T-contractors are generally willing to offer more favourable packages to T-contract staff who possess the relevant skills and experience, in order to retain talents.
     The existing T-contract commences from February 1, 2016 and has a contract period of 36 months. At present, the Government does not set any minimum remuneration packages for respective T-contract staff categories in the service agreements with the T-contractors. Nevertheless, when preparing the tender documents for the next T-contract, the OGCIO will review the situation and the assessment criteria, including whether to take the remuneration packages for T-contract staff into account, and to monitor contractors' management of the remuneration packages of their staff.
(4) To ensure that T-contract staff are given reasonable treatment and due protection, there are terms in the T-contracts requiring contractors to be responsible employers, to comply with the employment legislation of Hong Kong, and not to include unreasonable terms in the employment contracts. Although the Government and T-contract staff do not have any employer-employee relationship, any reports of exploitation, if substantiated, could be regarded as a breach of contract. The Government will issue warnings to the contractor or even terminate the service contract.
     The OGCIO will remind T-contractors regularly that as responsible employers, they have to clearly convey to T-contract staff the protection and rights which they are entitled to under the employment legislation and employment contracts. The OGCIO also encourages T-contractors to communicate with T-contract staff regularly to understand their work, and provide advice and assistance on issues such as career prospects and benefits, etc.
Ends/Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Issued at HKT 14:00
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