Succession problems down to oversights, civil service chief says

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 October, 2009, 12:00am

The secretary for the civil service yesterday said that due to oversights in the past, succession problems had arisen where department heads and their deputies had been due to retire within a few years of each other.

At a Legislative Council panel meeting, Denise Yue Chung-yee gave details of her work in the coming year, following the chief executive's policy address last Wednesday.

Lawmakers praised the plan to recruit about 2,500 civil servants this year, but noted that this failed to match the number of people retiring. About 3,000 civil servants have retired each year for the past five years, and this is expected to increase to 7,000 a year in the next 10 years.

Democratic Party member Cheung Man-kwong said the efficiency of governance could be weakened by frequent turnovers at the top of a department when senior staff members approached retirement age at the same time.

'Look at this situation with the director of public prosecutions: a 58-year-old succeeds a 58-year-old ... the successor has only two years to go. What new long-term strategy can he have?' Cheung asked. Ian McWalters SC will replace Grenville Cross SC on October 22.

Yue said she was aware of the problem and was conducting meetings, as often as twice a year, to address the issue. She said there were a small number of departments where the problem had arisen, due perhaps to a lack of detailed preparation in the past, resulting in a failure to anticipate the situation clearly.

This had led to the present situation in which a successor was only one or two years younger - too small an age difference, she said.

Meanwhile, Yue said she was unable to announce a timetable for a government review of the system for vetting the post-service employment of senior civil servants, because of the need to seek legal advice.

In July, following the controversy surrounding former housing director Leung Chin-man's employment by New World China Land, a committee made 23 recommendations, including extending the control periods governing the post-service employment of top officials.