While rejoicing at their achievement of the overall target of 5% cumulative
productivity gains, some departments have expressed that they may encounter
difficulties of varying degrees in pushing further ahead with the Enhanced
Productivity Programme (EPP). Since the launch of the Programme in 2000,
the EPP measures of various departments, such as granting compensation
leaves in lieu of overtime allowance and contracting out non-core projects,
have been focused on the real money savings in expenditure. The short-term
effects of such measures can easily be seen, but further cuts in expenditure
will not be possible in the long run. It is therefore necessary for
us to reposition ourselves in the new next phase of EPP. Besides reinforcing
the existing mode of achieving productivity gains, we have to review
the following areas to ensure that we can enhance the administrative
effectiveness of departments and reorganize the structures while maintaining
public services. Special efforts should be made to streamline the complicated
process of decision making to enhance efficiency and save manpower.
Administrative effectiveness : As a result of misinterpretation of
"collective responsibility", management staff are in the habit
of conducting consultations on matters big and small. Time and manpower
are thus wasted in transmission of documents and opinion collection
within a department. Therefore, while acknowledging the importance of
internal consultation, we should ensure that unnecessary consultation
Structure re-organisation : Departments should review their organizational
structures to see if there is any overlapping of duties. In the first
phase of EPP, heads of departments have set their own targets for achieving
savings in expenditure. In the next phase, they should study jointly
in a wide perspective to see whether the structures and functions of
their departments overlap with one another.
Decision-making process : Owing to the overlapping management structures, differences in opinions can easily arise in the decision-making process. This will often result in matters being delayed and a waste of manpower and time. Heads of departments should, therefore, review the decision-making process for matters of different levels of priority and develop the necessary mechanism to enhance efficiency and save time.
Article from Mr R A Highfield, Hong Kong Police
I believe it would assist civil servants to understand EPP better
if they understood the principal of good government. To get such an
understanding amongst so many thousands requires any explanation to
be simple and convincing, and not least, true!
I have the temerity to offer the following, which has always been
well received by those to whom it has been addressed, normally rather
lower grades in my department.
If you look at the countries of the world which are successful in
terms of a good quality of life, they have certain factors in common.
The two most important of these are:-
(a) Don't spend too much of your citizen's money, and
(b) Don't interfere too much in your citizen's everyday lives.
In other words, small government. Those which are rich in natural resources can err on the side of bigger spending, but the general rule holds true. Such a government encourages enterprise by not putting unnecessary financial constraints on business or private citizens. However, we can't have no government, that would lead to anarchy. Government is responsible for providing the framework necessary to enable its citizens to live their lives and become prosperous. Such obvious things as transport, communications, drainage, legal framework, and in my case, law and order.
What level of these services is required? Well, sufficient of each
so that the lack thereof does not restrict citizens in their business.
But not too much! That would break rule (a) above. The level has to
be that which the customer (the citizen) expects, or a little better.
Take police for example. If we provide too good a level of law and
order, we will almost certainly have spent too much money to achieve
it. Thus taxes would be higher and business would be less competitive
thus affecting everybody's standard of living. On the other hand,
if the law and order situation is unacceptable, business will be hindered,
foreigners will not set up here, and the result will be the same.
Our roads must work effectively, but if we built enough roads so that
there was never another traffic jam, we would have spent too much
money, thus breaking rule (a) again.
Expectations are continually rising. We want a better quality of
life for ourselves and future generations.
The ideal therefore is for every service the government provides
to be a bit better than expected, at a cost a bit less than expected.
Thus when I set out to achieve a small part of providing law and
order in Hong Kong, I should not just consider the obvious objective,
I should also consider how to achieve it at the minimum cost to the
Everything we civil servants do has a dollar value, which we are in the habit of ignoring because we are not in business, but we should change this culture, which is what EPP is trying to do. If all civil servants considered the cost of their actions, how to do more for the same or the less, and carried out their functions with this in mind, we could certainly improve our services and reduce the cost to the taxpayer. This will make business more competitive and give the worker more spending money, and hey, after all, we are taxpayers and workers too!
I have been working as a typist for over twenty years. I can say
that I have witnessed the many changes undergoing in the typist grade
and found that the workloads of typists are always on the decrease.
With the widespread use of computers across all government departments,
almost every officer (except WM I & II and OA) now has his own
computer regardless of his grade or rank, resulting in an ever decreasing
workload for typing pool of some departments. Although not a few departments
have deleted typing pool altogether under the Enhanced Productivity
Programme, I still find that the few remaining have little value of
existence. More often than not, typists staying in the pool mostly
spend their time leisurely reading newspaper, chatting with colleagues
or talking on the phone. I am sure the value of our existence only
lies in our availability to act as Personal Secretary II. We just
work indolently day after day without feeling the least pressure from
work, and of course the so-called senior typists are no exception.
Therefore, under the recent bridging-over arrangement in which typists
are transferred to clerical assistants, it is no wonder that many
typists cannot stand the heavy workloads of the latter and request
to be transferred back to the typist grade using numerous excuses.
I think the Government is too lenient to them and has wasted too much
time and effort to deal with their requests. Needless to say, the
aged typists are all the more reluctant to leave the grade. I think,
however, that the Government is more to blame than the typists for
this because of its indecisiveness and reluctance to delete the grade.
I now put forward the following proposals for the consideration of
the Bureau :
(1) The Government should speed up the process of transferring out
all typists and senior typists alike and delete the grade accordingly,
as the duties of typists and those of clerical assistants overlap,
resulting in a waste of public money.
(2) Some typists may oppose to the transfer arrangement as they always
find it difficult to adapt to new posts because of their age. The
Government should therefore consider whether they can be allowed to
retire early. I find that the motto "the survival of the fittest"
always holds true. I believe that most typists are willing to be transferred
to other posts in order to stay employed, if they treasure their jobs
and do not evade heavy workloads. The remaining few who are unwilling
to work should therefore be directed to retire early, so as to save
the Government from the enormous salary payments and benefits spent
(3) I hope that when Civil Service Reform is to be conducted in future,
the Government can consider relaxing the retirement age limit of civil
servants and not compulsorily require them to retire between ages
50-55 or 55-60. Instead, a flexible approach should be adopted. As
far as I know, the existing provision under the Old Pension Scheme
only allows a civil servant to retire prematurely at the age of 45
years on the grounds of immigration. I think this is out of keeping
with the times and should be changed appropriately to meet present
social circumstances. It is because a person does not know the extent
to which he can endure pressure and for how long. He may be emotionally
disturbed and even takes things too hard. If we can apply for retirement
any time we feel that our ability can no longer meet work requirements,
we need not stay idly in our posts until retirement age. Government
is only required to pay us the pension we deserve. There is no need
to give us any additional compensation because we ourselves make the
choice voluntarily. In so doing, some posts will be vacated for filling
in by the younger generation so more job opportunities can be created.
This arrangement is beneficial to both parties.
I hope you will study carefully the above proposals and consider them seriously. Thank you.