Disciplinary proceedings in the Civil Service are provided in the Public Service (Administration) Order and the Public Service (Disciplinary) Regulation made by the Chief Executive under Article 48(4) of the Basic Law as well as disciplined services legislation. The disciplinary mechanism was reviewed and modified in early 2000 as part of the Civil service reform, in order to put in place an efficient and effective mechanism to punish misconduct and maintain deterrent effect, while complying with the principles of natural justice. The disciplined forces have also reviewed their disciplinary proceedings practised under the disciplined services legislation with a view to improving and streamlining the procedures.
New disciplinary mechanism under the Public Service (Administration) Order
The new disciplinary mechanism has been implemented since 17 April 2000. Its main features include the setting up of a new independent secretariat (Secretariat on Civil Service Discipline) to centrally process formal disciplinary cases, and streamlining the disciplinary procedures.
Secretariat on Civil Service Discipline
The Secretariat is headed by a Senior Principal Executive Officer and staffed by 10 Executive Grade officers. It is responsible for processing all disciplinary cases in the Civil Service under the Public Service (Administration) Order on behalf of the disciplinary authority (i.e., the Chief Executive, the Secretary for the Civil Service or Heads of Department, depending on the rank of the officers).
The Secretariat has the following roles and functions:
- advising departments in preliminary investigation and collation of evidence of specific acts of alleged misconduct;
- presenting evidence and witnesses at inquiry hearings;
- providing logistical support to the inquiry officers/committees at inquiry hearings;
- acting as a resource centre on precedent disciplinary cases for consideration by the disciplinary authority on punishments;
- liaising with departments and disciplinary authority on matters relating to the standards, procedures and practices of disciplinary actions; and
- helping departments identify areas vulnerable to misconduct and to find ways to improve their staff management systems.
Streamlined Disciplinary Procedures
Changes have been introduced in 2000 to streamline the disciplinary procedures. The changes include dispensing with the invitation of representations from the accused officer before inquiry hearings, using video-tapes and audio-tapes to record inquiry proceedings, and reducing the period for invoking summary dismissal action from 21 to 14 days.
Disciplinary mechanism under the disciplined services legislation
The disciplined services have also taken action to improve the disciplinary process under their respective legislation in the light of present day circumstances, and to provide guidelines and training for those involved in the conduct of disciplinary proceedings.