Bureau chauffeur row played down

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 February, 2009, 12:00am

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Stephen Lam Sui-lung said yesterday he was not directly responsible for staff management at the bureau, as scrutiny intensified over the seven-year employment of his former driver who was never officially qualified for the post.

Mr Lam did not directly address whether the appointment, which gave the driver a higher salary, was appropriate.

'Staff management of the bureau is handled by the permanent secretary and the related civil servants,' he said. The minister reiterated that the employment of the driver, who left this month, was in accordance with the internal procedures.

Mr Lam denied some reports suggesting that the driver's recent transfer was due to the scandal involving the finance chief's driver, saying the man left the post one week before it emerged. Media reports recently revealed that Finance Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah also bypassed civil service regulations regarding chauffeurs by hiring his driver on contract. The driver had served him before but did not pass the qualifications for a higher grade while in the civil service.

Civil service drivers have expressed their discontent, saying that drivers with the appropriate qualifications were not getting a chance of promotion.

The chairman of the Federation of Civil Service Unions, Leung Chau-ting, said he had known of the situation for many years but felt he could do nothing about it. 'This is government policy, we cannot help it. They can bring whoever the want in.' Pan-democrats are expected to discuss the issue today.

A government spokesman said Mr Lam's driver was first allowed to act as his chauffer in 2002 because of 'operational needs'.

In 2005 there was an internal recruitment for a permanent driver but there was no suitable candidate.

In 2007 there was another recruitment exercise but the acting chauffeur was not replaced because of a 'human resource management situation'.