The Finance Bureau Circular Memorandum (FBCM) No. 17/2000 issued on 21 July 2000 announced, amongst other things, the widened scope and eligibility for the use of the "Save & Invest Account". As a result of this liberalization to the ambit for withdrawing funds from this account by Controlling Officers, we have received very encouraging and positive feedback.

It has been about six months since the implementation of the liberalization and enhancement measures to provide bureaux and departments with an enabling environment for application of withdrawing funds from the "Save & Invest Account". The number of applications received had increased quite substantially since then. For the 12 months period starting from the first introduction of the "Save & Invest Account" to the date before the publication of the FBCM No. 17/2000, we have received 16 withdrawals from 14 bureaux / departments amounting to $16 million in total. Subsequent to the publication of the FBCM No. 17/2000 announcing the liberalization, we have received 24 withdrawals from 19 bureaux / departments amounting to $28 million in total. The total balance available for withdrawal amounted to $530 million.

We quote in the following 2 cases of withdrawals approved since the publication of the FBCM 17/2000 for information. One demonstrating withdrawal from the Save & Invest Account to meet expenditure under the liberalized ambit of widened scope and eligibility, and the other demonstrating the advantage of the Save & Invest Account allowing Controlling Officers the flexibility to draw on their savings to meet their own expenditure priorities. They should be interesting references for other Controlling Officers.

Case No. 1

In December 2000, one bureau withdrew a sum of $3,800,000 for hiring of consultancy service to assist in the development and implementation of a pilot scheme on a specific aspect of human resources management through the creation of a non-recurrent commitment under the subhead 700 General Other Non-recurrent. While departments participating in the pilot scheme will design their own scheme; select the units to participate in the scheme; formulate their own targets and decide on the detail criterion of assessment; the bureau considers that human resources management consultants should possess the necessary expertise and experience in advising the participating departments on the development and administration of the scheme. In particular, the consultants will be required to offer advice and assistance to the bureau in formulating the overall framework of the pilot scheme; drawing up general parameters and guidelines for implementations; offering advice and assistance to the selected departments in designing / implementing / monitoring the scheme on a on-going basis; evaluating the trial schemes; making recommendations on the trial schemes; and drawing up a long-term plan on extension of the scheme to other bureaux / departments.

Case No. 2

In October 2000, one department withdrew a sum of $4,408,000 for replacing two of the eight escalators at one of the buildings managed by the department. The original escalators have been in operation since November 1988 for use by the public. Owing to heavy usage, the major components of the escalators have been worn out. A programme to renew these escalators gradually has been prepared. A bid to replace these two escalators was submitted in the context of the 2000 Capital Non-works Resources Allocation Exercise. In view of other competing priorities, the bid was not accorded a high priority and eventually was not successful in being allocated with funds. The department in view of the costly maintenance work and prolonged downtime and frequent disruption of services to the public are expected, decided that for reliable operation and acceptable performance, total replacement is more cost-effective than maintaining. Against the above considerations and noting that these escalators have been operating in a special environment which tends to aggravate their corrosion, the department was successful in withdrawing from the "Save & Invest Account" to replace the two escalators.

A note of reminder, the balances credited into the "Save & Invest Account" are valid for three years from the date of credit. That is, savings credited in 1998-99 would lapse on 31 March 2002.

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