The delivery of public service is labour-intensive. Any productivity enhancement therefore touches upon the “people” element. How to win the support of staff and address their concerns are the major challenges in the implementation of EPP.
An important step to win staff support is effective communication between staff and management. To ensure that staff fully understand the EPP spirit and the EPP plans in their own work units, Controlling Officers consult and brief their staff on their EPP plans through established channels like the Departmental Consultative Committees. Some Controlling Officers also write personal letters to their staff explaining the principles underlying their EPP plans.
We publish an EPP Newsletter at regular intervals to report progress on implementation on EPP and to share experiences amongst the public sector. We also invite interested parties to view the EPP Newsletter via the Internet at http://www.fstb.gov.hk/tb/.
To ensure that the “people” element is taken care of, we have devised a strategy to provide Controlling Officers with guidelines and advice in dealing with staff issues arising from the implementation of their EPP initiatives. The strategy also provides practical assistance in redeploying staff released from one office to another.
The strategy is based on the following principles:
- facilitate bureaux' and departments' efforts in enhancing efficiency and productivity while avoiding staff redundancy;
- meet the pledged EPP targets while making full use of the human resources available; and
- manage all grades and ranks of staff in the best interest of the staff and the community when formulating EPP plans.
Under the strategy, Controlling Officers are required to strictly control recruitment of staff. They have to plan their EPP initiatives taking into account vacancies, natural wastage and planned growth for all grades of staff in their departments. They have to devise a longer-term human resources plan in light of the changes in work practices, the availability of more cost-effective services in the private sector and the increasing use of information technology. They also need to explore other measures to reduce staff costs and control the size of the civil service, and to try to ensure that these measures are acceptable to both the staff and the community at large.
To further enhance public sector productivity and give further impetus to increasing private sector participation in the delivery of public services in 2000-01, we launched the exercise on the containment of the civil service with a target to reduce the total civil service establishment by 10 000 (or about 5%) over the period 2001-02 to 2002-03. The objectives of this initiative are to demonstrate our commitment to enhancing public sector productivity, and to maintain a lean and fit civil service.
Under this exercise, Controlling Officers are required to draw up manpower plans for their bureaux and departments for the period up to 2002-03, taking into account the nature of the services they deliver, the scope for outsourcing and the present staffing situations. They are also required to ensure that there will be no staff redundancy and to keep their staff informed of their plans. All Controlling Officers have responded in a positive and pragmatic manner. So far, we have achieved initial deletion of some 6 700 posts in 2000-01.
The civil service containment exercise does not seek to impose further savings targets on top of EPP. Controlling Officers are allowed to apply the resources released from reduction of establishment to deliver the EPP savings; redeploy them to provide services through alternative modes; or fund new or improved services. The exercise has achieved the objective of maintaining a lean and fit civil service and giving an impetus to exploring more innovative and effective way of serving the public. In taking forward the exercise, we have upheld, and will continue to uphold, the quality of service to the community.
It is our policy under EPP to avoid redundancy. When Controlling Officers plan reductions in their establishment and explore alternative means of service delivery, some may encounter genuine difficulties in re-absorbing staff within their departments. Therefore, in 2000-01, we introduced the Voluntary Retirement (VR) scheme. So far, out of 11 000 applications, the Administration has processed 8 900. In view of the positive response, we envisage that the staff surplus problem in the majority of the VR grades can largely be reduced or become manageable. The resultant savings will either be used for EPP savings for 2001-02 and 2002-03, or redeployed by the Controlling Officers for the provision of other essential services for the benefit of the community.