Following is a question by the Hon Charles Mok and a written reply by the Secretary for Innovation and Technology, Mr Nicholas W Yang, in the Legislative Council today (October 25):
Currently, various policy bureaux and government departments (B/Ds) may, through a term contract (T-contract) centrally administered by the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer, engage contractors to employ information technology (IT) contract staff (T-contract staff) to provide IT services to B/Ds. Some practitioners of the IT sector have relayed that while B/Ds have the authority to directly assign work to T-contract staff, B/Ds have not endeavoured to ensure that such staff members are offered reasonable remuneration packages. The Government has not prescribed any annual pay adjustment mechanism nor minimum remuneration and fringe benefits (including paid annual leave and basic medical benefits) for T-contract staff. T-contract contractors also impose requirements in the employment contracts that such staff members may not work for other T-contract contractors within a certain period of time after their departure (commonly known as sanitisation period). Those practitioners have also pointed out that the Government’s taking the lead to outsource IT services through T-contracts is not conducive to enhancing professionalism of and attracting talents to the IT industry. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of (i) the total number of IT officers under the civil service establishment and (ii) the total number of vacancies of such posts in various B/Ds, as at September 2017, with a tabulated breakdown of (i) and (ii) by rank, as well as a tabulated breakdown of (i) by B/D (sorted in descending order of the number of such officers under B/Ds);
(2) of the total number of full-time non-civil service contract (NCSC) staff members providing IT services to various B/Ds as at September 2017, with a tabulated breakdown by B/D (sorted in descending order of the number of such staff members under B/Ds);
(3) of (i) the total number, (ii) the year-on-year percentage change of the total number, (iii) the average year of service and (iv) the average monthly salary, of T-contract staff working in various B/Ds as at September 2017;
(4) of the total number of T-contract staff members who had worked continuously for five years or more in various B/Ds in each year from 2015 to 2017 (up to September), with a tabulated breakdown by (i) B/D and (ii) post;
(5) of the number of T-contract staff members who had worked continuously for five years or more but whose contracts were not renewed, in various B/Ds in each year from 2015 to 2017 (up to September), with a tabulated breakdown by B/D and post; among the posts vacated each year by such staff members upon completion of their contracts, the number and percentage of those posts which were and will be filled by internal redeployment of staff members in the civil service;
(6) whether the authorities will explore measures to improve the employment conditions of T-contract staff, e.g. by stipulating, when conducting the next round of T-contracts tendering exercise, in the tender documents (i) the minimum remuneration and fringe benefits (including paid annual leave and basic medical benefits) that the successful bidders must offer to T-contract staff, and (ii) the requirement that successful bidders must disclose the salary ranges of T-contract posts for reference by job seekers; and
(7) whether the authorities will consider (i) by making reference to the civil service pay adjustment mechanism, devising a standardised annual pay adjustment mechanism for T-contract staff, (ii) stipulating that the employment contracts for T-contract staff must not contain any sanitisation period clause, and (iii) offering T-contract staff members with specified years of service the option of being converted to civil servants or NCSC staff; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
Having consulted the Civil Service Bureau (CSB), our reply to different parts of the question is as follows:
(1) As at September 30, 2017, the number of civil service information technology (IT) staff (including permanent posts, time-limited posts and supernumerary posts) and the number of vacancies of IT staff in the Government are as follows:
The number of civil service IT staff in respective government bureaux and departments (B/Ds) is at Annex I.
(2) The statistics on the non-civil service contract (NCSC) staff employed by respective B/Ds in 2017 is still being consolidated by the CSB. The number of full-time NCSC staff providing IT support to B/Ds as at December 31, 2016 is at Annex II.
(3) As at September 30, 2017, the total number of staff engaged by B/Ds through the T-contractors (T-contract staff), and the rate of change are as follows:
As at September 30, 2017, the average lengths of service (Note) of T-contract staff engaged by B/Ds are as follows:
T-contract staff are employed by T-contractors. The Government does not have information on the relevant remuneration.
(4) From 2015 to 2017 (up to September 30), the number of T-contract staff having provided service in the same B/D with length of service (Note) of 5 years or more is at Annex III.
(5) T-contract staff are employees of the T-contractors. The Government does not have information regarding employment renewal matters between two parties. T-contract staff could be employed by different T-contractors. The T-contractors could also arrange their T-contract staff, after expiry of employment contracts, to take up other T-contract positions, or to provide service in private/non-government organisations.
B/Ds have all along been determining whether IT-related posts should be filled by civil servants in IT grades, NCSC staff or T-contract staff, having regard to the nature and requirements of the posts.
B/Ds would review their IT manpower requirements annually. For posts with long-term service needs, B/Ds can apply for additional resources in the annual Resource Allocation Exercise (RAE) for creation of civil service posts. In the past three years, the number of new civil service posts approved for creation under RAEs in the Analyst/Programmer grade is as follows:
Vacancies in the basic ranks of civil service grade would normally be filled by open recruitment. As for vacancies in the promotion ranks, unless there is no civil service candidate found suitable, they would normally be filled by promotion of suitable candidates within the civil service.
(6) and (7) The requirements on the scope of work, professional knowledge, skills, experience etc vary for different T-contract staff positions. The remuneration packages offered to T-contract staff by the T-contractors depend on factors such as educational qualifications, professional knowledge, relevant skills and experience of individual staff, as well as the prevailing job market circumstances. The flourishing IT market in recent years helps maintain remuneration packages of T-contract staff at reasonable and competitive levels. In order to retain talents, T-contractors are generally willing to offer better packages to T-contract staff that possess relevant skills and experience.
The existing T-contracts commenced from February 1, 2016 and has a contract period of 36 months. The Government has not set any minimum remuneration package and fringe benefits for T-contract staff in the existing T-contract. Nevertheless, when preparing the tender documents for the next T-contract, the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer will review the situation and the assessment criteria. We will also explore the relevant arrangement for allowing T-contract staff to apply for other T-contract positions through different T-contractors prior to the expiry of their existing service period.
At present, there is no mechanism to directly convert T-contract staff to civil servants. Individual T-contract staff may apply for civil service posts in which he/she is interested. In the past three years, the Government employed over 230 civil servants in the Analyst/Programmer grade through open recruitment. Successful applicants include some T-contract staff.
Length of service refers to the number of years of service provided by T-contract staff to the same B/D, during which the staff concerned may not be working in the same position, responsible for the same project, or employed by the same T-contractor.