Officials will be given allowances only when they take up duties of colleagues or supervisors on leave for at least 30 days, the Government has decided. The new rule, lengthening the minimum qualifying period for an allowance from between one and two weeks, would save $200 million each year, Secretary for Civil Service Lam Woon-kwong said. The Director of Audit put the spotlight on a package of 'outdated' civil service allowances and perks which cost taxpayers $2.6 billion last year. Allowances paid to officers acting in senior posts before promotion or taking on duties of colleagues on leave cost $706 million last year. In the Public Accounts Committee open hearing yesterday, Emily Lau Wai-hing of The Frontier asked if acting allowances breached government policy. 'Civil service pay is always said to be broadly comparable to that in the private sector. But I don't think private companies have such a thing,' she said. The Civil Service Bureau explained in a paper that there was a need to retain acting allowances to test officers' performance in higher ranks. But officials pledged to get tough on acting appointments due to leave, saying only those who had shouldered 'substantial additional duties and responsibilities' for at least 30 days would be given an allowance. Despite opposition from staff, the bureau pledged to implement the new rules early next year to guard against abuse. A decades-old travelling allowance for staff posted to the New Territories will also be limited to those working at the border, outlying islands and remote parts of Sai Kung.