In FBCM 17/99, it was announced that the Chief Secretary for Administration's Public Services Policy Group had endorsed a human resources redeployment strategy to facilitate bureaux's and departments' efforts in enhanced efficiency and productivity whilst minimising staff redundancy.The Strategy ensures that all options will be pursued, including voluntary early retirement, before redundancy is contemplated, and help bureaux and departments meet the pledged EPP targets whilst making full use of the human resources available.
The strategy is a multi-pronged approach which brings together Controlling Officers, Heads of General and Common Grades, Bureau Secretaries and the Finance Bureau (FB)/the Civil Service Bureau (CSB)to jointly tackle the problem. In this article, we provide an update on the various aspects of the strategy.
In 1999-2000, recruitment of civil servants is frozen pending the review of civil service entry pay. On 26 January 2000 the Establishment Sub-Committee (ESC) endorsed the new civil service entry pay. With Finance Committee's approval of the ESC recommendation on 18 February 2000, the new civil service entry pay will come into effect from 1 April 2000. Meanwhile, CSB and FB are considering when the freeze on recruitment should be fully or partially lifted. Even in the event that the freeze on recruitment is lifted, we will need to exercise stringent control over the growth of the civil service. We will need to critically review, in conjunction with the relevant Heads of Grades, the intake requirement taking account of changing work processes, extensive use of IT and alternative mode of delivering public services.
Management of outsourcing/procurement of services
The keys of successful outsourcing are cost effectiveness and quality service. If either of these results are not available, outsourcing may not worth pursuing. Contracting out existing services is likely to give rise to surplus staff. Some Controlling Officers are no doubt facing the dilemmas of being required to deliver cost-effective services often through contracting out whilst not having the means to deal with the surplus staff situation arising from such initiatives. Our advice is if Controlling Officers feel that an outsourcing plan would bring considerable benefits but they are concerned about the resulting surplus staff problems, they should contact FB and CSB to jointly tackle the problem.
Controlling Officers may not realise that outsourcing may work in reverse. They should consider with innovation whether some jobs that are used to be delivered by external consultants or private firms could be undertaken by in-house staff through acquiring the necessary skills or equipment. For example, FB and MSA have recently put in place more systematic arrangements to ensure that the in-house management consultancy capacity will be fully utilised. Controlling Officers wishing to engage management consultancies for certain projects are requested to approach MSA first. Where the projects are justified and supported and if MSA does not have the capacity to handle the projects by in-house staff, it will source external consultancy support to undertake the assignment.
Responsibility of Controlling Officers in human resource management
Under the strategy, Controlling Officers are asked to plan their EPP initiatives on the basis of vacancy/natural wastage/funded growth for all grades in the department. Controlling Officers have been requested not to target the junior and front-line staff in their EPP initiatives. Streamlining supervision and delayering the bureaucracy with a view to deleting or temporarily freezing senior positions to meet EPP targets are encouraged. Controlling Officers' efforts in this regard are very much appreciated by CSB and FB.
Assistance to Departments with genuine surplus staff difficulties
FB and CSB have jointly administered a clearing house mechanism to perform central matching for surplus staff to existing or new service requirements. Bureaux and departments could take on such surplus staff in carrying out well justified time-limited projects.
In FBCM No. 19/99 issued in October 1999, we invited bids from Controlling Officers for the available manpower resources in some identified grades. Departments had responded very enthusiastically to the exercise. In total, we received 325 bids from 55 departments, involving 1,506 staff.
After weeks of efforts, the bidding exercise was completed in December 1999. In summary, there are 81 successful bids involving 40 bureaux/departments and 358 staff in total. The total Notional Annual Mid-point Salary(NAMS) value of these successful bids is $63 million in 2000-01. On 2 December 1999, we notified Controlling Officers concerned and the relevant Heads of Grades of the results. Consequent to this, FB has reflected the additional NAMS provision to departments under their respective Heads of Expenditure in the 2000-01 Draft Estimates. Departments with additional posts allocated are required to work closely with the relevant Heads of Grades to arrange posting in a timely manner.
With some exceptions, we have through this mechanism cleared most of the surplus staff arising from the reorganisation of municipal services and the implementation of EPP. To facilitate further re-deployment of staff released from some departments to other departments in the course of the year, we shall create a central reserve of NAMS in the 2000-01 Draft Estimates under the control of FB and CSB.
The bidding has shown a huge demand for clerks and had there been an RAE, this demand would probably have featured in some of the bids supported. On the other hand, some outsourcing projects are held in abeyance because of the likely surplus clerical staff situation. We have requested the Director of General Grades to take stock of the staffing situation in the clerical and other grades under his purview and re-activate the clearing house as and when required. Indeed, in the likely event that we will resume RAE, for 2001-02, we will advise Star Chamber to allocate available manpower resources to supported bids. This would create room for departments to pursue their outsourcing plan and should be welcome by departments, especially when their outsourcing plans are intended to meet the EPP targets in subsequent years.
Reduce permanently the strength of certain grades the demand of which is small in future through voluntary redundancy
The longer term staffing situation has to be assessed in the light of the Government's pursuit for greater productivity. In order to minimise redundancy, voluntary retirement is considered an acceptable arrangement. However, it has to be pointed out that voluntary retirement would only be available for certain grades which have or will have a surplus staff problem. Details of such scheme are being given serious consideration. We hope to be able to update readers on this soon.