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LCQ17: Post-retirement Employment of Civil Servants

Following is a question by the Hon Lau Kong Wah and a written reply by the Secretary for the Civil Service, Mr W P Wong, in the Legislative Council today (March 14):

Question:

It was reported that the former Director of Highways joined the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation while on pre-retirement leave which began in last August. Regarding the post-retirement employment of civil servants in public organisations, will the Government inform this Council :

(a) whether the permission of the employment of the former Director by the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation was granted on the basis that the employment had no conflict of interest with his former public office; if so, of the justifications for this basis;

(b) of the criteria adopted for assessing whether the post- retirement employment of civil servants in public organisations involves a conflict of interest; and

(c) in order to avoid public misunderstanding of such change of employment, whether consideration will be given to imposing a mandatory sanitisation period on all retired senior civil servants, during which they are not allowed to take up employment in the public organisations with which they have had dealings in their official capacity before retirement?

Reply:

Madam President,

First of all, I would like to explain the current rules governing retired civil servants in taking up employment or entering into business post-retirement. In accordance with the provisions of the pensions legislation, all retired civil servants who have been granted a pension are required to seek prior permission from the Government to take up employment, enter into business, or become partners or directors, if the principal part of the business or employment is carried on in Hong Kong, within two years after retirement, or within three years for officers retiring at Director of Bureau rank or above. The same requirement applies to civil servants who wish to take up employment or enter into business during their pre-retirement leave.

The Government considers each application individually. The basic principle is whether the proposed employment will conflict with the previous duties of the retired officer in the Government, and whether it will compromise public confidence in the integrity of the civil service. The Advisory Committee on Post-retirement Employment will also advise the Government on individual applications from directorate officers. Depending on the circumstances of individual case, the Government may consider imposing an appropriate sanitisation period or restricting the scope of work or business of the applicant.

I will now answer the individual parts of the question -

(a) The application of the former Director of Highways to take up employment with the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation was processed and approved in accordance with the normal procedures and criteria. The Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation is a public corporation which operates and implements major railway plans and projects as an agent of the Government. Implementation of these projects requires experienced professionals, and the former Director of Highways has profound knowledge and expertise in the field. The Government, after consulting the advice of the Advisory Committee on Post-retirement Employment, has been satisfied that the proposed employment is in the public interest, and is not in conflict with the previous duties of the officer in the Government, and has accordingly approved the application.

(b) The Government will normally consider applications for post-retirement employment from civil servants according to the following criteria. These criteria are equally applicable to applications for employment with both public organisations or private companies -

* whether the officer has been involved in policy formulation or decision making which could have benefited his prospective employer;

* whether the prospective employer might gain an unfair advantage over competitors because of the officer's previous knowledge and experience; and

* whether the employment would result in an undesirably high profile or embarrass the Government.

(c) The present mechanism governing the post-retirement employment of retired civil servants is equally applicable to employment with public organisations or private companies to avoid potential conflict of interest situations. The mechanism has been operating smoothly and we do not consider it necessary to impose stricter control over retired civil servants in taking up employment with public organisations.

End/Wednesday, March 14, 2001
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