Retirement jobs not so easy for top civil servants

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 August, 2010, 12:00am

The watchdog that scrutinises the private-sector employment of retired directorate-level civil servants imposed more conditions on applicants last year than in previous years.

This followed the public outcry when ex-housing chief Leung Chin-man was allowed to take a job with a developer.

The majority of applications - 44 of 59 - were still handled by circulating documents rather than face to face at meetings, according to the latest annual report of the Advisory Committee on Post-service Employment of Civil Servants.

The report released yesterday showed that the committee approved 57 applications and rejected two last year. The numbers were about the same as in 2008, when 53 were approved and three turned down.

Thirty-nine applications - 68.4 per cent of the total - were approved with extra restrictions last year.

That was a sharp increase from the 43.4 per cent approved with additional conditions last year, among which was an application by former permanent secretary for education and manpower Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun. Law was offered the job of chief executive of the charity Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, but the committee recommended that she be barred from handling the group's education services if she took the job. She subsequently turned down the offer.

The five-member committee, headed by solicitor Moses Cheng Mo-chi, is responsible for vetting all applications from directorate-level officers wanting to take up post-civil service jobs.

Decisions are made by the Secretary for the Civil Service after receiving the committee's advice.

The committee came under fire in 2008, when Court of First Instance judge Pang Kin-kee was chairman, for its handling of Leung's job at New World China Land. Hearings by a Legislative Council select committee later found out that, of about 400 cases considered during Pang's six-year tenure, the committee met to discuss only five. The revelation drew criticism from lawmakers and calls for improvements to the committee's operation.

A spokeswoman for the advisory committee said yesterday that members would meet to discuss applications 'when necessary'.

So Ping-chi, chairman of the Hong Kong Senior Government Officers Association, said he believed the change would improve the committee's credibility.

He said: 'It is now working much more seriously. In the past it often vetted applications as routine, but now it holds more meetings to discuss applications ... We are not proposing more conditions on post-service jobs, but as long as they are reasonably imposed it is better than rejecting applications altogether.'

Pan Pey-chyou, deputy chairman of the Legco panel on public service, said the increased used of conditional approvals showed the committee had heeded public opinion.

'People are now very sensitive about former senior officials joining private enterprises after leaving the government.'

He said the fact the committee had met as many times as it had was already progress given it held almost no meetings in past years. The public could judge whether its scrutiny was up to standard.