$96m of civil service perks set to be axed or reined in

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 April, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 April, 2004, 12:00am

Officers oppose a planned cut in holiday allowances

Colonial-era civil service perks estimated to cost taxpayers $96 million a year are to be scrapped or substantially tightened as part of an overhaul to curb government spending.

But staff unionists say a proposed cut in the holiday allowance for senior officers is unfair.

The Civil Service Bureau yesterday rolled out its proposals on the fringe benefits review.

It recommended that at least eight items of spending, including the leave passage allowance, air-conditioning, furniture, hotel and baggage subsidies, be scrapped or tightened.

The staff side has one month to respond to the proposals.

A review of education and housing allowances, which will have a greater effect on the civil service, will be carried out later this year.

At present, senior directorate officers are entitled to $43,720 as holiday allowance each year. They can also claim the same amount each for up to five family members. The bill for the past financial year exceeded $66 million.

With allowances for baggage, hotels, furniture and moving house, such spending cost $90.8 million in total in 2003-04.

The government said that amount is expected to rise by 5.8 per cent to $96 million in 2004-05.

In a paper outlining the proposals, the bureau suggested reducing the holiday allowance and ending it for family members of those joining the directorate rank after a specific date. But no details were given.

Hong Kong Senior Government Officers Association chairman Peter Chan Pak-fong said the proposed changes were unfair. 'It's unfair to discriminate [against] an officer who gets promoted at a later date,' he said.

He said officers might have to stop travelling with their families as a result. 'It may affect family life,' he added.

Mr Chan also urged the government to clarify whether serving directorate staff would be affected. 'We only agree to apply the reduction to future directorate staff, but only to a level no less than that in 1997. We also oppose scrapping the allowance for family members,' he said.

The bureau stressed it would abide by the principle of lawfulness, reasonableness and fairness in implementing the proposals.

It said officers appointed after June 2000 were no longer entitled to claim the leave passage allowance for their family members.