Ins and outs of being accountable

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 April, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 April, 2002, 12:00am

What does the accountability system mean?

The system involves the appointment of a group of ministers with policy portfolios who hold political responsibility for their policies. They will head policy bureaus accordingly and sit on the policy-making Executive Council.

Why is the system being introduced?

Under the present system, the appointment of policy secretaries is on civil service terms. The officials play the dual role of policy-making and policy-execution. The lines of political and administrative responsibilities are blurred. Rigidity in the civil service system makes it difficult to lure outsiders to become policy secretaries.

Who will become ministers?

Except for the post of Secretary for Civil Service, which must go to a civil servant, the remaining 10 ministerial posts and three secretaries can be chosen from within or outside the civil service. About seven or eight new ministers are expected to be incumbent policy secretaries.

How much will they be paid?

At present, a policy secretary earns about $2 million a year, with other benefits such as housing and children's education, up to a maximum total of $1.7 million. A minister will be paid a lump sum of about $3.7 million a year. The three secretaries will be paid between $3.8 million and $4.1 million. The three will keep their official residences.

Who will appoint and sack ministers?

They will be nominated as principal officials by the Chief Executive for the appointment of the central Government. The Chief Executive can recommend to the central Government the removal of officials.

What are the respective responsibilities between ministers and permanent secretaries?

Ministers will mainly be responsible for external work, such as dealing with legislators and the media. Permanent secretaries will be responsible for the execution of policies, but they also have to assist ministers on matters such as dealing with Legco.

What are the roles of the three secretaries - Chief Secretary, Financial Secretary and Secretary for Justice?

Under the existing structure, policy bureau heads report to the Chief Secretary and Financial Secretary respectively. The 11 ministers will be directly responsible to the Chief Executive after July 1. These two secretaries are expected to play a co-ordinating role among bureaus. The Secretary for Justice's role will remain unchanged. The three posts will become political appointees.

Does the introduction of the accountability system require Beijing's consent and/or an amendment of the Basic Law?

No. The nomination and the appointment of principal officials will remain as they are under the Basic Law. As the launching of the new system will result in the removal and appointments of principal officials, the relevant names have to be submitted to Beijing for approval.

Graphic: MIN14GET