The government should consider heavier punishments, such as salary cuts or demotions, for civil servants found guilty of official misconduct, the head of the Public Service Commission said. Nicholas Ng Wing-fui said most civil servants were efficient and honest, and the public should not be given the impression that all bureaucrats were 'shirkers'. 'In the past, the departments rarely used relatively heavy punishments such as reducing salaries,' Mr Ng said in an interview after the release of the commission's annual report on the civil service. 'We have reminded them they could use it.' The commission advised on 92 civil service disciplinary cases last year. One involved a reduction in rank while five involved severe reprimands and salary cuts. While 29 more serious cases involved either dismissal or compulsory retirement, punishments for the remaining cases ranged from severe reprimands to fines. Mr Ng said the ratio of wrongdoers was 'extremely small' in the 160,000-strong civil service, and it was not necessary for the public to view public servants harshly. 'Really, 92 is an extremely small number,' he said. But Mr Ng said the government should never turn a blind eye to wrongdoing. 'The vast majority of civil servants have been trying their best, and we should not give people the impression that all of them are shirkers.' One main focus of the commission's latest report was the attractiveness of civil service employment in the light of changing economic and political conditions. While the introduction of the accountability system had taken away the top tier of decision-making positions traditionally reserved for civil servants in favour of political appointees, Mr Ng said it was too early to see what impact the development would have on civil service morale. Especially since the economic downturn, the relative stability and comparatively higher pay of civil service jobs had maintained their attractiveness versus the private sector, Mr Ng said. But he acknowledged that rising public expectations and the changing political landscape had increased the pressure on civil servants. In order to retain talent, the commission proposed that various departments should make career development a priority for staff. It was especially important because many staff who had reached the top of their promotion ladders might find diminishing job satisfaction from their positions if asked to do the same tasks for extended periods. Mr Ng said the government should be more flexible in substantiating positions for staff on probation or contract terms, as the present six-year wait before giving new recruits permanent positions was too long.