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Introduction
To Fire Services Department, the Enhanced Productivity Programme (EPP) is not entirely a new initiative. We experienced similar productivity enhancement exercises ten years ago under the initiatives of restricted and later zero growth in 1989 and 1990. The Department piloted a series of value-for-money studies and job evaluation exercises to achieve productivity gains and savings in recurrent expenditure. About 500 disciplined posts were relinquished in 1990 as a result of adjustment to the manning scale of fire appliances. Some of the savings achieved were used to fund the implementation of the reduction of conditioned working hours from 60 to 54 hours per week for fire personnel in operational units. The Department has become very lean and hence we find the current EPP a challenging task, aiming to reduce the operating expenditure by $146.3 million in three years by 2002-03 and maintaining high standards in the provision of public services.
 
EPP initiatives for 2000-01 and 2001-02
For these two years, productivity gains in FSD have been achieved mainly through the following initiatives -
V more efficient redeployment of existing staffing resources to take up new initiatives
V sharing the manning for special fire appliances with low utilisation rate
V compensating overtime work by time-off in lieu of paying overtime allowance and re-organisation of work units and re-distribution of duties
V re-engineering and streamlining of procedures and systems, and greater use of IT and office automation
V outsourcing of non-core services
V revising the existing scope of maintenance service and re-arranging payment schedule for EMSD services
These initiatives have enabled the Department to effect non-creation of some of the funded new posts, deletion of vacant posts, reduction of Disciplined Services Overtime Allowance, overtime and acting allowance expenditure and maintenance cost charged by EMSTF. These measures together have successfully reduced the operating expenditure of FSD by a total of $87.2 million in these two years.
 

EPP plans for 2002-03
In devising EPP initiatives for 2002-03, we remain vigilant in observing the following guiding principles -

E Quality of public service will not be compromised. We must ensure that the various performance pledges made in the Controlling Officer's Report on fire suppression, protection and emergency ambulance service will continue to be met.
E No staff redundancy should arise as a result of the implementation of EPP. As disciplined grades of FSD are not included in the Voluntary Retirement Scheme, the extent to which surplus posts can be deleted is subject to the ceiling of natural wastage and number of additional new posts during the EPP years.
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All echelons and service fronts should participate and contribute towards Department's EPP target. All streams of disciplined grades, including officers and other ranks, civilian and technical grades will have a fair share of contributions in this productivity enhancement exercise.

 

Strategies employed for devising EPP plans for 2002-03
The savings package and resources revamping effort since 1989 have reduced the scope in redeployment of resources. After introducing the various EPP initiatives in 2000-01 and 2001-02, there are indeed not many spending areas for further reduction. The Department is in need of new strategies and approach in exploring new sources of productivity gains. Multi-pronged strategies were adopted in the third round of productivity enhancement.

The Department has taken a vigorous review on the level of expenditure and use of human resources on all fronts of services, both 'horizontally' and 'vertically'. The 'horizontal' approach is to examine areas that have not been previously exposed to EPP scrutiny. The 'vertical' effort is to re-visit those units and services which have been subject previously to EPP with a view to further enhancing their productivity. In both approaches, there have been thorough examinations of job duties at all levels for re-allocation of resources.

We find it extremely useful to learn from other departments and public bodies on how to improve efficiency. Experience sharing in EPP forums, tips from EPP Ambassadors and articles in EPP newsletters have provided us with valuable insight and innovation in coming up with EPP plans. Staff and staff associations are encouraged to contribute suggestions that are well taken into consideration in developing EPP plans.

One noteworthy area of expenditure is our over $100 million worth Service Level Agreement with the EMSTF. Reviewing the best value-for-money on their maintenance service has been one of our major targets for EPP savings. We have been in discussion with the EMSTF to negotiate a competitive price for the maintenance service. Our needs are fully appreciated by EMSTF. They in turn strive for entering a longer duration of service agreement with FSD that would allow them scope for better planning and the ability to provide the service at a more competitive price. The negotiation is still on-going and we aim at achieving a win-win situation.


Process
Developing EPP plans is a two-way process between management and staff in FSD. Strategies and share of EPP contributions are deliberated by Senior Directorate. Staff suggestions are channeled to the Headquarters. Based on these deliberations, Chief Fire Officer (Headquarters) and the Department's Finance Controller generates various options. Departmental Secretary and his EO colleagues advise on the financial and staffing implications, including impact on intake of new recruit, staff wastage, effect on promotion and staff morale issues.
 
Recently, FSD held for the first time an off-site Senior Commanders' Forum on a weekend in June which was attended by Director, Deputy Director, seven Senior Commanders and Departmental Secretary. The objective is to keep Senior Commanders abreast of and for them to exchange views on latest development of departmental policy issues, major tasks in hand and service improvement initiatives for the next twelve months. EPP plans for 2002-03 were discussed and Senior Commanders gave their views on the implications on the provision of service in their respective commands.
 
The next important step is to roll out the EPP proposals to the staff side and consult them. This will be led by the Deputy Director who would meet all staff associations in the Department through established channels like the Departmental Consultative Committees. He will also hold meetings with individual associations explaining to them the EPP plans and collect their feedback.
 

EPP spirit
The Department is pleased to note that the EPP plans for 2002-03 are progressively taking shape. We are proud that we can meet the EPP target of reducing the recurrent operating expenditure by 5% by 2002-03, despite that this productivity drive has been achieved through painstaking efforts and stretching our lean resources to the utmost limits. Apart from delivering productivity gains, the most important achievement of FSD in this exercise is that we have inculcated a culture of taking challenges, a EPP spirit among all managers and service members, and a constant search for ways to achieve greater results from available resources. This mind set change is vital in enabling the Department to continue striving for the best value-for-money in Government expenditure and making sustainable improvement in its services.


Fire Services Department
June 2001

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Brainstorming EPP options at Fire Services Department's Senior Commanders' Forum
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