Top civil servants may face an extension of the restrictions on them taking up work after they retire - in contrast to politically appointed officials.
A government-appointed review committee yesterday recommended the most senior civil servants be required to seek approval before taking up work within five years of retiring; currently the period is three years. The next most senior civil service grades should seek approval for three years, up from two, the committee recommended.
However, the 12 government ministers and their deputies and political assistants must seek approval for employment for only a year after quitting the administration.
Former minister Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said the proposal was unfair and punished civil servants. A trade union for civil servants said implementing it would dent its members' morale.
The committee was set up amid an outcry after former housing director Leung Chin-man was allowed to work for a property developer.
The committee noted the disparity in treatment between senior civil servants and the 33 political appointees and urged Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen to carry out a separate review of the curbs on appointees' post-service employment.
The committee decided against recommending top civil servants be barred from working in the same fields they dealt with in government.
It also decided to leave unchanged the ban on senior civil servants taking up work immediately after retiring; depending on their grade, directorate-level civil servants may not take a job within six to 12 months of retiring.
The proposals affect about 1,200 directorate-grade civil servants.
Ronald Arculli, chairman of the committee reviewing post-service outside work for directorate-grade civil servants, was asked if it was fair to make civil servants wait longer to take up unrestricted unemployment. He replied that the committee was only extending the requirements to seek approval to work rather than extending the ban on working.
Government ministers must seek the advice of a committee appointed by the chief executive if they wish to take a job within a year of leaving the administration, but the committee's advice is not binding.
So Ping-chi, chairman of the Senior Government Officers' Association, warned that the proposals, if implemented, could dent the morale of senior civil servants.
'Compared to directorate civil servants, politically appointed officials enjoy much higher salaries and have more authority. It is entirely unfair that the controls on them are relatively lenient,' he said.
Mrs Ip, an independent lawmaker and a former security minister, said ministers handled much more sensitive information than senior civil servants.
Mr Arculli noted that Britain and the United States also had different systems governing post-service work by civil servants and political appointees.
A spokesman for the government said it would consider the committee's recommendations carefully and consult staff representatives before making any decisions.
The most senior civil servants, on directorate grade eight, should seek permission before taking up work within five years of retiring, rather than three years at present
Civil servants retiring on directorate grades four to seven should seek permission before taking up work within three years of retiring, rather than two years at present
Civil servants retiring on directorate grades one to three should seek permission before taking up work within two years of retiring, as at present
Source: The committee on review of post-service outside work for directorate-grade civil servants