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LCQ15: Non-Civil Service Contract staff of the Buildings Department

Following is a question by the Hon Kwok Wai-keung and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Eric Ma, in the Legislative Council today (March 22):

Question:

Earlier on, some staff union representatives have relayed to me that 33 staff members employed by the Buildings Department (BD) on Non-Civil Service Contract (NCSC) terms to fill the posts of Building Safety Officer and Building Safety Assistant had their contracts renewed in recent months only for a period of one year, and that they are required to leave office upon the expiry of their contracts. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the number of NCSC staff of the BD and the relevant total expenditure on salary in each of the past three years;

(2) of the amount of backlog of work (including taking law enforcement actions against unauthorised building works, issuing building repair orders and handling water seepage complaints) of the BD in each of the past three years as a result of insufficient manpower, as well as the target amount of the relevant work to be dealt with each year;

(3) of the number of NCSC staff of the BD applying for the civil service posts in the BD each year since 2009 and, among them, the number of those who were offered appointment;

(4) of the major scopes of work of the aforesaid two ranks, and their respective total expenditures on salary in each of the past three years; the reasons for the authorities to reduce the number of the aforesaid posts; and

(5) whether the authorities will provide support for the aforesaid staff members, including (i) assisting them in being appointed as civil servants, and (ii) creating related civil service posts to absorb those staff members; if posts will be created, of the respective titles, numbers and responsibilities of such posts?

Reply:

President,

In accordance with the current mechanism, government departments may appoint staff members on Non-Civil Service Contract (NCSC) terms on a need basis for handling specific time-limited tasks. Departments would consider various factors when appointing NCSC staff, including their operational needs, the current resources and quotas available to them, and the performance of the NCSC staff concerned.

It is the Government's established policy to select the most suitable candidates for civil service vacancies through an open, fair and competitive recruitment process. As the entry requirements and selection process for NCSC positions may differ from those of civil service positions, there is no mechanism in the Government to directly fill civil service posts by NCSC staff. NCSC staff is required to apply for civil service posts through an open application process.

In consultation with the BD, the Development Bureau provides a consolidated reply as follows:

(1) In the three recent financial years, the number of NCSC staff in the BD and the corresponding total staff cost (including salaries, gratuity and Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) contribution) are tabulated below:

  All NCSC staff
(Including BSOs and BSAs)
  Expenditure ($'000) No. of Staff
2014-2015 90,283 265
(As at March 31, 2015)
2015-2016 73,097 241
(As at March 31, 2016)
2016-2017 63,774
(Estimate)
173
(As at February 28, 2017)

(2) The figures in relation to removal orders, repair/investigation orders, buildings repaired and the reported cases of water seepage handled by the Joint Office (JO) set up by the BD and the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department over the past three years are tabulated below:

  Figures/Year 2014 2015 2016
(a) Removal orders issued Target 6 000 17 000 12 000
Actual 11 816 12 918 12 901
Removal orders complied with 12 380 13 662 14 438
(b) Repair/investigation orders issued Target 500 550 500
Actual 540 589 969
Repair/investigation orders complied with 647 798 834
(c) Buildings repaired Target 650 700 700
Actual 849 947 1,017
(d) The reported cases of water seepage handled by the JO 22 056 25 093 29 148
 
(3) The BD does not compile statistics on the number of the BD NCSC staff who have applied for civil service posts in the department. In March 2009, there were in total 176 Building Safety Officers (BSOs) and 181 Building Safety Assistants (BSAs) in the BD, and all of them were appointed on NCSC term. Among them, 69 BSOs and 86 BSAs had been employed as civil servants in the BD as at March 13, 2017.

(4) At present, there are a total of 25 BSOs and 8 BSAs in the BD, all of them are appointed on NCSC terms. They are mainly deployed to the JO to assist in the investigation of water seepage reports, and to the Existing Buildings Divisions of the BD to assist in the follow-up actions in relation to Operation Building Bright (OBB).

In the three recent financial years, the total salary expenditures for BSOs and BSAs employed on NCSC terms (including salaries, gratuity and MPF) are tabulated below:
 

  2014-15
($'000)
2015-16
($'000)
2016-17 (Estimate)
($'000)
BSOs 17,908 13,939 11,146
BSAs 4,680 2,594 2,236
Total Expenditures 22,588 16,533 13,382

The BD strives to convert NCSC posts with long term operational needs to civil service posts. In the three recent financial years, BD created 96 professional civil service posts and 193 technical civil service posts. Among them, 70 professional civil service posts and 157 technical civil service posts involved the conversion of NCSC posts to civil service posts.

As the operation of the JO has been made permanent since April 2014, the BD has converted all the NCSC posts under the BD in the JO to civil service posts in phases. Besides, The OBB scheme has been substantially completed in September 2016. Hence, since October 2016, the BD would renew the contracts of BSOs and BSAs for one year only, so as to allow sufficient time for them to make appropriate arrangements. Moreover, if they wish to terminate their contracts before expiry, the BD would handle such requests flexibly and consider granting gratuity on pro rata basis based on the length of their service.

(5) The BD will create 23 professional civil service posts and 25 technical civil service posts in 2017-18 financial year mainly for enhancing enforcement actions for existing buildings. The BD will abide by the principles of openness, fairness and competitiveness in the recruitment process for these posts, with a view to employing the most suitable candidates for such vacancies.

The BD organises training courses, experience sharing sessions and seminars for all professional, technical and NCSC staff (including BSOs and BSAs) to enhance their professional and technical knowledge. When the BD receives applications by NCSC staff for civil service positions, it will take into account, inter alia, their years of service and experience in the department in the recruitment process subject to relevant guidelines promulgated by the Civil Service Bureau being met.

Ends/Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Issued at HKT 14:30

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