The first four months of government under Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying were "productive", with the team having a "strong determination to get things done", according to Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.
Despite big demonstrations on issues such as national education, these would have generated just as much controversy if they had arisen under the last government, Lam said. She recognised, however, that the bad press surrounding some key officials was affecting governance.
"[Their] personal problems have cast some effect," Lam said.
"But governance had already become difficult during the final stage of the last administration. The national education plan could have been just as controversial if it was rolled out by the last government."
Since July, members of the new government have had to grapple with personal scandals that cast doubt on their integrity.
Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po is accused of owning illegally partitioned flats and of drink-driving, Executive Councillor Franklin Lam Fan-keung allegedly profited from insider information on property curbs, and Leung himself was found to have illegal structures at his home on The Peak.
Despite the perceived chaos and flagging popularity, "the team is still strongly determined to get things done", Lam said.
The chief secretary was speaking on her first official visit to London as the government's No2.
Elaborating on her conclusion of a productive government, she said: "We have implemented many policies during these four months, such as promoting barrierless access [for the disabled] city-wide, but they received little media attention."
On a planned HK$2,200 old age living allowance, Lam called the friction generated in the Legislative Council an isolated case of executive-legislative relations at their worst. Opponents, including some Beijing loyalists, want the means test for elderly applicants should be scrapped.
"Technically, the administration has been working well with Legco," Lam said. "The new Legco is more atomic in composition and is more radical."
Many policies could be fine-tuned, "but there is no room for changes in the allowance".
The hurdles of implementing policies stemmed from a highly fragmented legislature and a complicated political environment, she said. "We may have to concede on efficiency in order to secure a broad-based consensus for policies," she added.
Lam will visit creative industries and social enterprises in London, and speak at a Trade Development Council dinner, before flying to Madrid today.