SPARE a thought for the Regional Services Department which has been without a boss for nearly six months. Its former director, Adolf Hsu Hsung, stepped down at the end of March, to become managing director of First Bus, and his replacement has still not been announced. Then there is the Customs and Excise Department, where staff have known for more than two months that Commissioner Lawrence Li Shu-fai is leaving but have still not been told officially who his replacement will be. Other vacancies are also cropping up throughout the civil service. It was revealed back in July that Director of Information Services Thomas Chan Chun-yuen is to leave his post. But again there is no sign of a successor in sight. Nor is there any official word on the most widely watched appointment of all: the choice of who will head Hong Kong's new office in Beijing, which the Government has promised to have up and running by the end of the year. It is not that the Government has failed to address the issue of who should be given these posts. Far from it. At least three months ago, Chief Secretary for Administration Anson Chan Fang On-sang chaired a postings board to decide on these and a number of other appointments, including who should head Hong Kong's economic and trade offices in Singapore, Sydney and New York. Also in attendance were Financial Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and Secretary for the Civil Service Lam Woon-kwong. In the past, that would have been the end of the matter. Once a postings board had approved Mrs Chan's choices, they would have been rubber-stamped by former Governor Chris Patten and then announced. But under Tung Chee-hwa it has become a very different game. After the postings board had been held, there was speculation at high levels in the civil service that Mrs Chan was nervous about submitting her recommendations to Mr Tung in writing. It was suggested that she instead wait for an opportunity to see the Chief Executive about this issue so that she could 'get her word in first' and put the case to him personally for accepting these choices. If so, she would certainly have good reason for such fears. The last time she drew up proposals for a reshuffle, as part of the creation of the Bureau for Information Technology and Broadcasting which is now headed by Kwong Ki-chi, Mr Tung left them gathering dust on his desk for up to five months and then rejected many of her original recommendations. Whether or not it is the same problem that is stalling this reshuffle, there has clearly been some unexpected delay. Government insiders admit that, had Mrs Chan's choices been readily approved by Mr Tung, they would have been announced in late July, in order to distract attention away from the embarrassing news that former Secretary for Security Peter Lai Hing-ling had decided to quit the SAR Government. Instead, the Chief Executive once again appears to be sitting on his deputy's recommendations. Perhaps his reasons are different this time. Since one of these appointments involves the head of the Beijing office, it is not surprising Mr Tung should want to scrutinise this particularly closely. Whatever the reasons, his hesitation has once again helped exacerbate problems within the administration. Customs officers were up in arms when Mr Li's departure was inadvertently leaked in the July 1 honours list, which announced he was being awarded a Silver Bauhinia Star. Some were so angry they complained to the Chinese-language press, producing a widespread - but erroneous - perception that Mr Li was being forced out. Now they are upset that his replacement is to be a civil servant from outside the department, probably Director-General of Industry Francis Ho Suen-wai. The longer the uncertainty over the reshuffle drags on, the more such grumbling will persist. While it is understandable that Mr Tung should want to think carefully about who he wants as Hong Kong's representative in Beijing, his stalling on more minor appointments is in danger of damaging civil service morale.