Go to main content
Strengthen management of civil servants with persistent sub-standard performance
     The Government will streamline the mechanism of retiring officers in the public interest on grounds of persistent sub-standard performance under section 12 of the Public Service (Administration) Order (PS(A)O) to further enhance performance management and maintain the professionalism and efficiency of the civil service so as to improve the efficacy of governance.

     The Secretary for the Civil Service, Mrs Ingrid Yeung, met with the staff-side representatives of the four civil service central consultative councils at the Central Government Offices this morning (August 4) to brief them on the main contents of the streamlined mechanism and to collect their views. She is continuing to meet with representatives of the four major civil service groups this afternoon.
     Mrs Yeung said, "Improving and strengthening the handling of persistent non-performers is one of the key measures to further enhance civil service management. The procedures of the current mechanism are too complicated and lengthy. We have reviewed and streamlined the procedures under the principle of impartiality and fairness in order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the mechanism and keep up with the times."

     The Chief Executive announced in his 2022 Policy Address the strengthening of the civil service management system. For officers whose performance remains persistently sub-standard despite supervision and assistance, their appointments should be terminated in a timely manner. Where an officer is not performing up to the required standard, management will help him/her to improve their performance through counselling, training or other administrative measures as appropriate. When these measures do not yield the expected results, action will be pursued under section 12 of the PS(A)O to retire him/her in the public interest.
     Main points of the streamlined mechanism are as follows:
  • To simplify the mechanism with well-defined and clear procedures so as to enable Heads of Departments (HoDs), Heads of Grades (HoGs), administrators and all civil servants to understand clearly the Government's procedures for handling persistent sub-standard performers; and to improve the efficiency of the mechanism while maintaining the principle of impartiality, upholding due process, and safeguarding the reasonable rights of the officer concerned;
  • To reduce unnecessary representations at multiple junctures. Under the current mechanism, despite the arrangement that a civil servant has the opportunity of expressing his/her views on his/her work performance, supervisors' assessments and other related matters during the interview that his/her supervisor must conduct upon completion of the annual appraisal report, the civil servant concerned is still invited to make representations as many as four times after management has kick-started the mechanism under section 12 of PS(A)O. After the streamlining of the workflow, representations will be invited at two major steps: (1) when the Bureau/Department issues a letter-of-intent to the officer informing him/her of the intention to take section 12 action against him/her (before the Civil Service Bureau (CSB) examines the case and consults the Public Service Commission (PSC)) and; (2) when the CSB has obtained the PSC's advice and is about to seek a decision from the approving authority. This is to ensure that the officer will have sufficient opportunities to make representations which will be fully considered by the decision-making authority when key decisions are made, and that the efficiency of the mechanism will be improved;
  • To require that the "observation period", which is a specified period within which a persistent sub-standard performer is required to improve his/her performance to an acceptable level, can only be extended once and for specific circumstances only. The move could reduce delays caused by hesitation of the management in making decisions;
  • To dispense with the requirement for an HoD or HoG  to set up and consult an "independent panel" within the department after the "observation period" and before submission of the case to the CSB. Under the mechanism, by the time a persistent sub-standard performer's case reaches the stage when the HoD/HoG has to decide on the course of action to be taken, the officer concerned has already been counselled, trained or even given postings multiple times, and has also completed the "observation period" granted by the department during which the officer has been given the final chance to improve his/her performance. Past appraisal reports are sufficient proof of the officer's failure to meet the minimum required standard. Setting up an "independent panel" will not provide substantive support but will only prolong the processing time of the case; and
  • If a Special or Observation Appraisal is called for due to an officer's persistent sub-standard performance under section 12 of the PS(A)O but the officer has been recommended for an increment at the most-recent annual Appraisal, the existing mechanism only requires management to review the increment recommendation. As civil servants are required to perform satisfactorily during the appraising period, the streamlined mechanism will make it mandatory for a stoppage or deferment of an increment for an officer concerned.
     Mrs Yeung said, "We attach great importance to every member of the civil service, and the vast majority of civil servants serve the public with dedication in their respective positions. With the rising public expectations on civil servants, management must provide supervision and assistance to officers with unsatisfactory performances early. For officers with persistent sub-standard performances, we must take actions resolutely so that they will not have an adverse impact on civil service morale or on the performance of the Government as a whole."
     The CSB has consulted the PSC on the aforementioned measures and is in the process of collecting views from the staff side, with the aim of promulgating the implementation of the new mechanism and procedures to all civil servants within this year.
Ends/Friday, August 4, 2023
Issued at HKT 16:00
Today's Press Releases