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LCQ1: Performance management of politically appointed officials
     Following is a question by Dr the Hon Tik Chi-yuen and a reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Erick Tsang Kwok-wai, in the Legislative Council today (November 9):
     The Chief Executive (CE) has put forth in the 2022 Policy Address a number of initiatives to strive to improve the governance of the Government, which include strengthening the reward and punishment system for civil servants and setting key performance indicators (KPIs) for specified tasks. CE has pointed out that for officers whose performance remains persistently sub‑standard despite supervision and assistance, their appointment should be terminated in a timely manner. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether the aforesaid reward and punishment system is also applicable to politically appointed officials (PAOs); if so, of the details; if not, whether it will establish a reward and punishment system which is applicable to PAOs; and
(2) whether the Government will assess the performance of Secretaries of Departments (SoDs) and Directors of Bureaux (DoBs) against the achievement of KPIs, and provide this Council and the public with regular updates on the achievement of such KPIs, so that members of the public can monitor the performance of SoDs and DoBs?
     The accountability system for Principal Officials of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) was introduced on July 1, 2002. The objectives of its establishment include: (1) to enhance the accountability of Principal Officials for their respective policy portfolios; (2) to maintain a permanent, professional and meritocratic civil service; (3) to select the most suitable persons to take up the Principal Official positions to serve the community and to enhance governance; (4) to better co-ordinate the formulation of policies to ensure their effective implementation and provision of quality services to the public; (5) to enhance co-operation between the executive and the legislature; and (6) to enable senior government officials to better appreciate the aspirations of the community and better respond to the needs of the community.
     In accordance with the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (Basic Law), Principal Officials of the HKSAR are nominated by the Chief Executive (CE) and appointed by the Central People's Government. Under this system, the team of Principal Officials and the CE, of one heart and one mind and dedicated to their duties, work collectively to safeguard the national sovereignty, security, development interests of the country, and maintain the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong. They have to proactively address public demands, ensure that their policies meet public expectations and are in the long term interests of the country and Hong Kong.
     In consultation with the relevant office and policy bureau, my consolidated reply to the question raised by Dr the Hon Tik Chi-yuen is as follows:
(1) The CE values team spirit. He believes that governance capability of the government rides on the concerted effort of leaders and team members. The two must act closely with one another in order to achieve the synergy effect of "one plus one is greater than two", create the greatest value and allow our people to benefit most. In fact, politically appointed officials (PAOs) and civil servants must work hand in hand as they are shouldering the expectation and obligation of good governance of the HKSAR. In the Policy Address, the CE has undertaken to enhance the overall governance capability and efficacy; improve the governance system of the HKSAR, and enhance the governance capability and efficacy of the governing team and the civil service. As the Principle Officials (POs) of the political team in charge of different policy areas, they should gauge the pulse of the community and fully consider opinions from all walks of life, so as to formulate appropriate policies. Furthermore, they must also assume responsibility of the policy outcomes and be ultimately held accountable to the CE.
     Under the existing mechanism, the PAOs are bound by the "Code for Officials under the Political Appointment System" (PAO Code). The PAO Code has clearly stated that PAOs shall be dedicated to their duties and be responsible to the HKSAR Government, and shall act in the best interests of HKSAR as a whole. In the event of any allegations of breach of duty or the provisions set out in the PAO Code, the CE after due process would decide whether the alleged breach is established and if so, the applicable sanctions, including warning, public reprimand, suspension or dismissal. In the case of POs, the CE may, if considered appropriate, make recommendation to the Central People's Government for their suspension or dismissal as per the Basic Law. We consider the current mechanism effective.
     Under the Political Appointment System, civil servants may focus on assisting the CE and PAOs in making and implementing policies, as well as managing public services under their respective portfolios. The CE has raised in the Policy Address that the government will strengthen the civil service management system, including: launching a new reward scheme to recognise meritorious and exemplary teams or individuals on a regular basis, and provide them with enhanced training and advancement; for officers whose performance remains persistently sub-standard despite supervision and assistance, their appointment should be terminated in a timely manner; enhancing the civil service disciplinary mechanism so that appropriate punishment can be promptly imposed in a fair and just manner on officers found to have misconducted themselves. The measures above on the management of civil servants aim at encouraging civil servants to take responsibility, strive for constant improvements, work hard for the public and actively provide quality service to the public.

(2) To implement the "result-oriented" governing strategy, the CE and Secretaries of Department and Directors of Bureau have set about 110 various indicators, including key performance indicators (KPIs), and have asked all policy bureaux and departments to set other relevant indicators for monitoring the progress of various policies and review their effectiveness, so that prompt adjustments and improvements can be made. The CE has emphasised repeatedly, that the objective of setting indicators is for monitoring the progress of individual projects. The government will work unreservedly to meet the targets set in order to ensure governance efficacy. In case of slippage, we will review the situation, including whether factors beyond our control have come about, or whether certain objective factors (such as procedures, legislation and resources) have posed restrictions on individual indicators, or whether more effective co-ordination or division of labour among policy bureaux or departments is called for. We will also take them forward and make suitable adjustments as the actual circumstances so warrant.
Ends/Wednesday, November 9, 2022
Issued at HKT 12:35
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