It had not yet been resolved whether principal officials politically appointed by the chief executive under the proposed ministerial system could be members of political parties, the Chief Secretary said yesterday. Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said the officials were not expected to bring in their own teams to the administration. Spelling out details of the proposal, he said he and senior colleagues had considered it thoroughly and saw the changes as an improvement to a system that had put them under severe strain since the handover. Under the proposed system, the chief secretary, financial secretary, secretary for justice and most bureau directors would become political appointees answerable to the chief executive. The proposal would mean splitting the dual role of departmental administrator and policy-maker currently performed by secretaries and bureau directors. Permanent under-secretaries, who would be civil servants, would run the bureaus, while the principal officials would be responsible for the political job of making policies. Mr Tsang said he believed senior civil servants would co-operate with their political masters, because they would not want the latter to bring in their own advisers. He admitted that the proposal would not address the discord between Legco and the administration, which did not have a governing party in the legislature. But Mr Tsang said principal officials, driven by a sense of duty and a desire to achieve objectives during their terms, would probably try to be more in tune with the public and Legco. 'They're likely to be more effective in securing support. Bickering between them and legislators might reduce because they're likely to be more selective in what they want to do. Since they would sit on Exco, they would be involved in formulating and implementing polices at all stages. That should mean better co-ordination, better prioritising and fewer policy collisions.' Mr Tsang said he expected the principal officials to be appointed by the chief executive on their personal merits, and it was not sure at this stage if they could be members of political parties. But he noted that the Basic Law provided that the chief executive could not have party affiliations. Mr Tsang said he had 30 to 40 names in mind who could qualify as principal officials, but 'I don't know if they're the ones the CE wants to appoint'. He said the system needed to change to safeguard the civil service, a pillar of Hong Kong's stability that had been strained on three fronts since the handover. First, senior officials had found it increasingly difficult to obtain new resources to implement policies, despite working for 12 hours every day, he said. Second, Mr Tsang said it was not easy to distinguish between administrative accountability and political accountability. In the public housing piling scandal last year, the public called for the resignations of Director of Housing Tony Miller and Housing Authority chairman Rosanna Wong Yick-ming. Ms Wong stepped down to take political responsibility, but the public did not appreciate why Mr Miller, a civil servant, should stay on. Third, while the Basic Law provided for the political neutrality of the civil service, Mr Tsang said it was increasingly difficult to maintain as society became more politicised. Mr Tsang and Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Clement Mak Ching-hung yesterday told talk show hosts a separate post would be created to head the 180,000 civil servants after the post of chief secretary became politically appointed.