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LCQ5 : Bankruptcies among government employees

Following is a question by the Hon Lau Kong Wah and a oral reply by the Secretary for the Civil Service, Mr Joseph W P Wong, in the Legislative Council today (June 5):


Regarding bankruptcies among government employees, will the Government inform this Council of:

(a) the respective numbers of employees in the Independent Commission Against Corruption and various disciplined services who were declared bankrupt or heavily in debt in the past five years; whether the authorities have analysed the reasons for their financial encumbrances;

(b) the assistance and counselling services available to its bankrupt employees; and

(c) the measures in place to offer to its employees guidance in proper financial management so as not to be encumbered financially?


Madam President :

The Administration's reply is set out below, in the same order:

(a) The required statistics are given below:

Department Number of officers reported
to be bankrupt in the 5 years
ending March 2002
Correctional Services Department 195
Customs & Excise Department 37
Fire Services Department 133
Government Flying Service 1
Hong Kong Police Force 258
Immigration Department 31

According to the information gathered by various departments, the common causes of indebtedness include investment failure (on the part of the officers themselves and/or their family members), excessive use of credit facilities, gambling, and living beyond their means.

(b) As part of the staff welfare arrangements, assistance is available to staff on request to cover outlay of specified purposes, e.g. expenses related to treating the illness of family members or other domestic distress.  Such assistance may take the form of advance of salary or loans arranged through departmental relief/welfare funds.

As and when a case of staff indebtedness comes to light, departmental management will assign a suitably trained officer to stay in touch with the staff in financial difficulties, providing counselling and other assistance to help the staff face up to the situation.

In some cases, professional counselling services by clinical psychologists or social workers are also provided to help staff in need to tide over the anxiety and loss of self-esteem resulting from bankruptcy.  Some departments (e.g. the Police Force and Correctional Services Department) provide such services in-house whilst others arrange the service by way of referral to the Social Welfare Department.  The stress management workshops organised by individual departments for their staff also provide guidance that helps staff tackle the stress arising from various personal problems including indebtedness.

To augment the counselling services provided by departments, a hotline counselling service will be launched by the Civil Service Bureau in July 2002, offering service to staff who have difficulties in managing stress arising from work and other personal problems.

(c) At induction briefings, new appointees are advised of the high standards of integrity they as civil servants are expected to uphold as well as the importance of prudent management of personal finance.

The induction materials given to new appointees include a booklet on "Sources of Finance for Civil Servants".  It provides information on regulations governing civil servants borrowing money from other persons as well as the requirement to notify his head of department as and when a civil servant becomes bankrupt.

To help maintain vigilance against the problems that may arise from imprudent financial management, departments circulate the prevailing guidelines and regulations on insolvency to their staff at regular intervals.  Messages advising staff to use their money wisely and to avoid incurring debts beyond their repayment capability are disseminated from time to time in newsletters or other integrity-related reference materials circulated to staff.  Such messages are also given suitable prominence in training materials and such publications as the booklet on "Civil Servants' Guide to Good Practices" produced by the Civil Service Bureau and the codes of conduct compiled by individual departments.

In addition, individual departments have made special efforts to inculcate a culture of prudent financial management amongst their staff, such as running campaigns on healthy life-style and organising briefing sessions on investment pitfalls and avoiding overspending.

The above endeavours form part of our wider efforts to promote integrity and probity in the civil service. 

End/Wednesday, June 5, 2002 

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