'Integrity law' urged for civil service

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 June, 2008, 12:00am

A new law would be needed to ensure the integrity of the civil service as the ministerial system expanded, former civil service chief Joseph Wong Wing-ping said.

He said the government had not yet honoured its pledge to come up with guidelines for civil servants in light of the expansion.

'Why is it still not ready by now? Perhaps such a code is just too difficult to draft,' he said, referring to the future division of work between civil servants and political appointees.

Confusion might arise over whether top civil servants should keep on lobbying political parties and attending Legislative Council meetings scrutinising bills, he said.

The Senior Civil Service Council is expected to discuss the issue of civil service guidelines this month.

'I think the government should seriously consider enacting a civil service law to better protect the political neutrality of the civil service. Otherwise, there may be an impact on the civil service,' Mr Wong said.

'The chief executive has wide-ranging power at present. A chief executive with a civil service background can exercise great influence on the civil service. Shouldn't we have a legal basis on the dos and don'ts for the civil service?'

Mr Wong said the issue of neutrality was based only on a circular he had issued during his term.

'As the accountability system [under which ministers and their aides operate] continues to develop, can we still hold on to a piece of paper to protect the civil service?' he asked.

Mr Wong said Britain had a similar civil service code endorsed by Parliament, giving it a legal basis.