SCMP Monday, July 31, 2000

Civil service discipline body flooded


A new secretariat set up to discipline civil servants promptly has been inundated with 150 cases in three months, some of which involve directorate-level officials.

Of the 10-plus cases completed, three were summarily dismissed while the others resulted in reprimands or acquittals.

Head of the Secretariat on Civil Service Discipline, Chan Tung-shan, said departments had been more eager to pursue disciplinary action over alleged misconduct. "We found that departments are more forthcoming in referring cases to us . . . there may be more cases as a result," he said.

Mr Chan said analysis on the severity of the cases had yet to be made, although some involved absence from work. He refused to disclose the ranks of the directorate staff involved. The body, set up in April with 11 executive officers to centralise disciplinary action, is part of the contentious civil service reforms announced in March last year.

The secretariat expects to handle 200 formal cases and advise on 800 inquiries each year. There are still about 200 cases which were being handled at department level before the secretariat was established.

Mr Chan said the central mechanism was expected to speed up proceedings by three months. Previously, cases with hearings usually took from seven to 18 months.

Figures show the number of annual disciplinary actions before the establishment of the secretariat rose from 546 in 1998-99 to 573 in 1999-2000. But these were much lower when compared to the 608 in 1996-97 and 626 in 1997-98. Of the 573 cases in 1999-2000, 102 were dismissed and 29 retired compulsorily.