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Civil Service Newsletter Editorial Board

Mr Phillipson (second right) with three former directors of
EMSD in 1996.


Works Policy

In 1985, he transferred to the Lands and Works Branch as Principal Assistant Secretary, where he worked for eight years on works policy issues such as design and construction standards, conditions of contract, water supply, quarries, the Buildings Ordinance issues, consultants and contractors’ lists and preparing responses to LegCo questions. During 1990 he worked on setting up the joint project management team to oversee the engineering work for the new airport at Chek Lap Kok including the railway, highways and bridges. He was later promoted to Deputy Secretary. Other responsibilities included education and training, developing computer services, quality assurance and the financial control of public works projects.


In 1993, he was posted to the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) for more than five years. “That was a very difficult and challenging time because the department was being heavily criticised for inefficiency. Over the next few years, we worked on these problems and eventually established a trading fund, which put the department on a semi-commercial basis where it charged departments the actual cost of doing the work. This meant departments would have the right to say “That’s too expensive! We’re not paying that! We will look elsewhere for the service”. The aim of improving efficiency and productivity and customer service soon became very much the philosophy of the trading fund, which continues successfully today.”

Hugh considers the variety of work that EMSD does astonishing. As well as the Trading Fund work, including government vehicle fleets, hospital equipment, traffic lights, work at the airport, cultural venues, swimming pools, ferry terminals, abattoirs and mail centres, they also regulate electricity and gas supply, lifts and escalators, nuclear power safety, cable cars and amusement rides. Hugh speaks highly of his time there: “They are a very modest department, but they are the ones quietly working behind the scenes to ensure Hong Kong keeps running well.”


His last two and half years in the civil service were as Director of Water Supplies, which, he points out, is the biggest utility in Hong Kong. “It has seven million customers — none of the others do, and also water is vital for life. The staff do an excellent and responsible job operating hundreds of pumping stations, reservoirs and treatment works and maintaining thousands of kilometres of water mains. With the reliable supply of water from the Mainland and the expertise and hard work of WSD staff, Hong Kong is fortunate to have such a firstclass water supply.”


Donald Tsang Yam-kuen as Financial Secretary receiving a souvenir
from Hugh at EMSD 50 years celebration in 1996.