Chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying has promised to visit all the city's 18 districts at least once a year when he takes office, and also vowed his ministers will be more visible and accountable too.
Responding to demands for a review of the ministerial system, which were raised again in a Legislative Council public hearing yesterday on his proposals to restructure the government, Leung promised a midterm evaluation of ministers to increase public scrutiny of top officials.
Critics, however, said Leung's district visits could be merely cosmetic, and could subject the administration to conflicting demands from different districts.
In a document sent to the Legislative Council, Leung (pictured) promised a midterm review of the so-called accountability system established in 2002. 'The political appointment system has been implemented for almost 10 years but its effectiveness in improving governance is less than desirable,' Leung wrote.
Social scientist Dr Chung Kim-wah said Leung's pledge to visit all 18 districts at least once a year, the first such promise by any chief executive, was unlikely to bring real policy changes.
'A visit by the chief executive would raise residents' expectations more than one by a minister or councillor. But the chief executive cannot make two sets of housing policies, one for Kwai Tsing and one for Sham Shui-po,' Chung said. 'Most likely the main functions of these visits will be to give ministers a better idea of their popularity.'
Eric Lam Lap-chi, a Democratic Party councillor for Kwai Tsing district, said Leung would need to follow up with specific action to make his visits more than just publicity events. 'The contact should not be shallow and ritualistic. There should be concrete follow-up policies.'
Lam said he doubted that Leung's visits could bring about dramatic changes. 'The problem is that councillors are not empowered,' he said. 'Officials see the councils as having a merely consultative function.'
Leung Kin-man, vice-chairman of Tuen Mun district council, and a member of the pro-government Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, agreed. 'We urge Leung to enhance the role of the district councils, otherwise the visits will be useless.'
Leung also proposed creating a larger talent pool in government, along with greater accountability for ministers. However, one Civic Party legislator, Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, said his proposals were devoid of details and 'simply a tactic to pass the restructuring proposal'.
More than 100 groups who attended yesterday's hearing remained split over the planned shake-up, which adds posts for a deputy chief secretary and deputy financial secretary, and creates new bureaus for culture and information technology.