Policy Adress | Administration and Justice: Lawmakers criticize top officials’ accountability system

The Secretary for Administration and Justice, Sonia Chan, along with several department leaders from her secretariat, were present at the Legislative Assembly (AL) to answer the lawmakers’ questions about 2018 Policy Address.

Agnes Lam asked the government how will it improve its principal officials’ accountability mechanism. Lam also asked how it will help civil servants who occupy lower positions, but hold prestigious education degrees, to be promoted.

Ng Kuok Cheong, in line with expectations, criticized the appointment mechanism for the office of Chief Executive. “If the CE were elected by universal suffrage, would it be possible for the CE to pass his responsibilities to his subordinate,” asked Ng, adding that the Basic Law does not exclude direct election of members for non-political municipal organizations.

Lao Chi Ngai, Chan Hong, and Lam Lon Wai sought an indication of the top officials’ “sense of patriotism.” They asked questions about non-political municipal organizations, suggested the building of more children playgrounds, and proposed the establishment of a big data system for Macau.

Sonia Chan, replying to Agnes Lam’s question on accountability, said: “The government has always been paying importance to assessing the top officials’ accountability, […] we want to solve this problem.”

Chan told Ng that she disagrees with the belief that a non-directly elected municipal organization is unable to represent the public.

According to the Secretary, in December, the government will consult with civil servants on their assessment system. Chan also noted that her secretariat has already put on its legislation agenda whether civil servants’ non-civil service working experience can be regarded as civil service working experience.

Pang Chuan, Lau Teng Pio and Ma Chi Seng questioned the government on the restriction of spaces that recreational art groups can use, new fresh food wholesale market regulations, and the development of the rule of law, respectively.

In reply, Sonia Chan said that the government “is not restricting spaces for recreational art,” but is helping art groups to improve their operational environment and benefit from Macau’s economic development.

Chan noted that regulating arts’ recreational spaces was beyond the concerns of public security and hygiene.

Mak Soi Kun pointed out that “more and more expenditure has been [diverted to] human resources. If you [the government] are simplifying the administration, why do you keep hiring people?”

“Spending money is not a problem, as long as things are done, which is the most important [thing],” said Mak, who also questioned the government representatives about the legal process surrounding the amendment of the procurement law.

During the Policy Address yesterday, Pereira Coutinho told Chan directly that “several lawmakers have already expressed their dissatisfaction towards you [Sonia Chan].” He criticized Chan’s departments for not having included legislation to ensure principle officials’ accountability in next year’s legislation schedule.

Coutinho pointed out that the top officials, especially the secretaries who are at the top of the administration, should firstly be held accountable for the deaths recorded during typhoon Hato.

“The higher the officials are, the more responsibilities they have,” said Coutinho, adding that the leaders have passed responsibility amid Typhoon Hato to the former Meteorological and Geophysical Bureau (SMG) director and deputy director.

Chan, instead of responding to this question, invited Kou Peng Kuan, Director of the Public Administration and Civil Service Bureau (SAFP), to do so.

Kou said that the government will have a full range of work assessments of civil servants in order to create a system for holding principal officials to account.

Chan noted that her department announced it would deliver five bills to the AL next year. She pointed out that, currently, “the Legal Affairs Bureau only has 25 professional law draftsmen and 15 translators. Their responsibilities and working pressure are significant.”

Association says policy address is meaningless

THE MACAO Community Development Initiative has characterized the government’s 2018 Policy Address as “empty”, according to the Chinese press. Topics surrounding livelihood occupied the biggest portion of the Policy Address presentation, but the association criticized the fact that even those topics lacked new ideas. Some aspects related to disaster prevention were added into this year’s policy address; however, the association deemed this new content to have no practical significance. They pointed out that the government did not even comment on the exact implementation schedules of short-term measures for disaster prevention.

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