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LCQ13: Manpower of Buildings Department

Following is a question by the Hon Chan Han-pan and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (January 8):

Question:

Some staff members of the Buildings Department (BD) have said that the Government has introduced a number of new policy initiatives in recent years in respect of building management and maintenance (including the Mandatory Building Inspection Scheme and Mandatory Windows Inspection Scheme, Validation Scheme for unauthorised signboards, Minor Works Control System, etc.) and has also stepped up the inspection of old buildings across the territory and expedited the removal of unauthorised building works. However, BD, which is responsible for undertaking the tasks, has not increased the number of its frontline staff accordingly, thus putting tremendous work pressure on the staff concerned. It has been reported that the frontline staff of BD held an assembly and went on a symbolic strike for 1.5 hours some time ago to demand the Department to expand the staff establishment and improve staff benefits. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the (i) numbers, (ii) notional annual mid-point salaries (NAMS), (iii) fringe benefits, and (iv) scope of duties of frontline BD staff (including Structural Engineers, Building Surveyors, Survey Officers/Technical Officers, Building Safety Assistants, Building Safety Officers, clerical staff and drivers) undertaking the aforesaid tasks in each of the past five years (set out in tables of the same format as Table 1, broken down by whether the staff member was (a) a civil servant, or (b) a non-civil service contract (NCSC) staff);

(2) of the numbers of (i) new recruits, (ii) departed staff of the grades mentioned in (1), in each of the past five years (broken down by whether the staff member was (a) a civil servant or (b) a NCSC staff), and (iii) NCSC staff appointed as civil servants (set out in tables of the same format as Table 2);

(3) whether BD has adopted any mechanism or criteria for projecting the relevant manpower requirement when introducing new policy initiatives; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(4) as BD's drivers have relayed to me that some of them have to take public transport to perform miscellaneous tasks e.g. dispatch of documents owing to the inadequacy of government vehicles under the Department, of the number of vehicles under BD at present, as well as the number of rides on public transport taken by BD's drivers in performing miscellaneous tasks last year; and

(5) whether, in the light of the recent labour dispute, BD will adopt improvement measures accordingly (e.g. whether it will increase the opportunities for its NCSC staff to be appointed as civil servants and improve the fringe benefits and terms of employment of NCSC staff); if BD will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?

Reply:

President,

In recent years, the Buildings Department (BD) has done a lot of work in enhancing building safety, and has since April 2011 started to adopt a multi-pronged approach to enhance building safety through various measures, including legislation, enforcement, support to owners, as well as publicity and public education. To complement the implementation of measures to enhance building safety, the BD has been bidding for additional resources in accordance with the Government established procedures, and has been reviewing from time to time its workflow and work priorities, in order to attain higher work efficiency on the premise of maintaining the safety of buildings.

My reply to the five-part question is as follows:

(1) The (i) numbers, (ii) notional annual mid-point salaries, (iii) fringe benefits, and (iv) scope of duties of the BD's Structural Engineers, Building Surveyors, Survey Officers, Technical Officers, Building Safety Assistants, Building Safety Officers, clerical grades staff and motor drivers in each of the past five years are set out in Annex 1.

(2) Of the grades mentioned in part (1) above, the numbers of (i) new recruits, (ii) departed staff, and (iii) NCSC staff appointed as civil servants in each of the past five years are set out in Annex 2.

(3) The BD attaches great importance to the manpower and management of the department. It conducts reviews on these aspects from time to time to ensure that the policies and resources are compatible as far as possible having regard to the practical needs so as to cope with the society's demands for relevant services and the department's operational needs.

In support of the work in enhancing the building safety of Hong Kong, the BD has been bidding for additional resources in accordance with the established procedures in the Government. In the past three financial years (i.e. from 2011-12 to 2013-14), 323 additional civil service posts have been created in the BD, including two directorate and 321 non-directorate posts. The 321 non-directorate posts comprised 123 professional posts, 95 technical posts and 103 general grades posts.  The BD's establishment increased from 996 on April 1, 2011 to 1 319 on November 1, 2013, representing an increase of 32%. There was also an increase of over 30% in the establishment of the professional and technical grades during the same period. The number of civil service posts of the two technical grades (i.e. the Survey Officer and Technical Officer grades) in the BD increased from 308 to 403, and the number of civil service posts of the two professional grades (i.e. the Building Surveyor and Structural Engineer grades) rose from 374 to 499. In the next financial year (i.e. 2014-15), about 190 civil service posts comprising professional and technical posts as well as other supporting staff posts will be further created in the BD to enhance the delivery of the series of measures on building safety.

(4) According to the BD, there are 31 government vehicles in the department at present. The duty of the BD's motor drivers is to drive vehicles and therefore they are not required to take public transportation to perform duties or other miscellaneous tasks.

(5) The BD has been maintaining close communication with its staff to understand their work situation and needs. In fact, in response to the suggestions made by frontline staff, the department has implemented a series of measures to improve work efficiency, including rearranging the work priorities and streamlining work procedures, suitably adjusting and setting work targets, as well as strengthening communication channels with frontline staff. The BD will continue to bid for additional resources on a need basis, and will also seek to convert some NCSC posts into civil service posts as necessary in its review on the manpower resources.

It is the objective of the Government's civil service appointment policy to appoint the best person for the job, and recruitment is based on the principle of open and fair competition. As such, NCSC staff are required to apply for civil service posts in the Government along with other applicants. For applicants who are NCSC staff, the BD will, in the selection process, take into account their seniority and experience within the department as one of the considerations.

As regards remuneration and fringe benefits, according to the current Government policy, the departments concerned have to follow relevant guidelines in the recruitment of NCSC staff, including the formulation of an overall package of terms and conditions of employment, recruitment procedures and arrangements for termination of individual contracts. When formulating the details of both the employment terms and the overall remuneration package, the BD has taken all relevant factors into account, and will from time to time review and make adjustments to the remuneration and employment terms of the NCSC staff. In 2013, the BD has adjusted upward the remuneration of the NCSC staff in January and August respectively.


Ends/Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Issued at HKT 18:02

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