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LCQ17: Principles Governing Civil Servants' Engagement in Outside Work

Following is a question by the Hon Henry Wu on Principles Governing Civil Servants' Engagement in Outside Work and a written reply by the Secretary for the Civil Service, Mr Joseph W P Wong, in the Legislative Council today (April 28):


Will the Government inform this Council of:

(a) the mechanism for the declaration, approval and renewal of approval for serving civil servants to take up paid outside part-time work including long-term and short-term employment; and

(b) the number of civil servants who applied for approval for taking up such work in each quarter of the past three years and the bureaux to which they belonged, broken down by the salary bands set out in Part 1 of Schedule 6 of the Public Officers Pay Adjustments (2004/2005) Ordinance; among them, the number of persons whose applications were rejected and the reasons therefor, as well as the number of civil servants currently taking up such work and the bureaux to which they belong?


Madam President :

The Administration's reply is set out hereunder.

Part (a)

2.   We have well established rules governing civil servants' engagement in outside work.  The main principles include the following:

(a)  Government has a prior call at all times on the abilities, energies and attention of all its staff;

(b)  outside activity (whether paid or unpaid) which may impair an officer's performance of his duties or distract his attention from them must be avoided;

(c)  no officer has the right to supplement his income by outside work;

(d)  only in the most exceptional circumstances is outside work permissible during the officer's normal working hours; and

(e)  no professional or assistant professional officer may undertake paid outside work in his profession either by way of private practice or as a paid employee, except for teaching work or where the work is clearly in the public interest, and with the approval of the Head of Department.

3.   An officer must obtain the prior approval of his or her Head of Department before he or she undertakes any paid outside work. 

4.   In considering applications for outside work, Heads of Department have to take into account the following factors:

(a)  whether the timing, frequency and duration of the outside work would affect the officer's efficiency;

(b)  whether the remuneration involved is so considerable in relation to the officer's salary that it could result in some loss of interest in his or her Government appointment;

(c)  whether the outside work proposed may conflict (or appear to conflict) with the officer's duties as a Government servant;

(d)  whether the outside work proposed may be a source of embarrassment to the Government; and

(e)  whether the outside work is in line with the principles prescribed in paragraph 2 above.

5.   Permission for an officer to undertake outside work may be withdrawn at any time should it appear to the Head of Department that it is in the public interest to do so.  In addition, all approved cases of outside work are subject to review at least every six months.  Before granting permission for the officer to continue his or her engagement in outside work, the relevant Head of Department must be satisfied that the officer has been performing his or her normal duties in a satisfactory and effective manner.

6.   The rules on outside work are widely promulgated within the civil service.  Officers who fail to comply with the rules render themselves liable to disciplinary action.  In the three years ending March 2004, 23 civil servants were subject to formal disciplinary action on grounds of unauthorized outside work.

Part (b)

7.   The tables at Annex I show:

(a)  the number of civil servants who sought approval for taking up outside work in each quarter of the past three years, broken down by bureaux and salary bands; and

(b)  the number of applications rejected.

8.   The increase in the number of outside work applications approved in the fourth quarter of 2003 involves mainly polling and counting duties related to the District Councils elections which were held within the quarter.

9.   The main reasons for rejection include possible adverse impact on performance or efficiency at work (about 70% of the rejected cases); and real or potential conflict with the officer's official duties or position (about 23%).

10.   As at 1 April 2004, 5 432 civil servants have obtained permission to undertake certain specified outside work.  The table at Annex II gives the details, broken down by bureaux (including departments under their purview) and salary bands.  Almost 2 000 cases of approved outside work involve part-time service with the auxiliary forces, including 1 130 with Auxiliary Police, 440 with Auxiliary Medical Service and 400 with Civil Aid Service.  There are also cases of outside work which are one-off in nature, such as delivering talks, helping out in examinations conducted by the government etc.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

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