Political accountability system another concern for lawmakers

Typhoon Hato disaster where former Meteorological and Geophysical Bureau officials were held accountable for failing to exercise managerial responsibilities following public outcry

Secretary for Administration and Justice André Cheong has assured lawmakers that the political accountability system is being implemented.

At his recent appearance at the parliament for policy questions, Cheong was questioned by lawmaker Ma Io Fong on the matter. Ma pointed out that there have been blueprints for a political accountability system for years now with no actual progress. No draft law, for example, has ever been submitted to the parliament.

By way of explanation, Cheong revealed that corresponding amendments and adjustments in the General Rules Governing Public Service Leaders would be orchestrated in parallel to the drafting of the disciplinary framework for senior public servants. Additionally, the provisions concerning breach of professional conduct in the Penal Code will also be reviewed in the coming year.

Recapping relevant references in last year’s Policy Address, Cheong reiterated that the political accountability system will cover three areas, namely the reviews of modes of authorization, reviews of breaches of professional conduct, as well as the compilation of a specific disciplinary system for senior public servants.

The senior official then highlighted that the government had already submitted a bill to amend certain parts of laws related to public service workers. The proposed amendment focuses on minimizing excessive bureaucratic approval procedures within the public service system.

He revealed that the disciplinary system specifically governing public service leaders was actually planned for this year. During the compilation process, however, the government discovered provisions in General Rules Governing Public Service Leaders that would conflict with the new bill. Therefore, the legislation process was postponed to next year.

Cheong stressed that the government took a pragmatic stand in terms of political accountability.

Both Fujian-related Becky Song and academic-lawmaker Pang Chuan asked questions about the training for the cultivation of public service leaders. Song questioned the transparency of designating candidates, while Pang expressed concerns over its effectiveness.

Cheong revealed that in the past there were guidelines and requirements for the shortlisting of candidates. The training courses, he stressed, were not of the simplistic and procedural kind. He believed that past candidates were not picked merely on the preferences of division heads.

Laws will be made when the talent database is established sufficient for the government to identify or appoint public service leaders solely from it.

While answering the questions, Cheong disclosed that future civil servants may be required to pledge allegiance to the People’s Republic of China with an oath.

The senior official also revealed that there are two pay systems for civil servants being implemented in Hengqin. He was responding to a question from lawmaker Leong Hong Sai with the General Neighborhood Association.

Cheong further explained that civil servants deployed from Macau to work in Hengqin will follow the remuneration system of the Macau public service. In contrast, Macau residents hired directly by the Hengqin administration will be subject to a specific salary structure determined by the administration.

Cheong criticized for repetitive road works

Although not in charge of the transport and public works sector, Cheong was questioned about Macau’s repetitive and uncoordinated road works. The Municipal Affairs Bureau (IAM), which he heads, is the office responsible for licensing road works.

Bank worker and lawmaker Lo Choi In reiterated that Cheong had pledged to not repeat road works at the same location for a period of three years. Lo then referred to the fact that the city has been seeing road works in many locations, which inevitably causes severe traffic congestion. She then questioned the progress of the executive regulations governing road works about which the government had hinted.

The senior official admitted that no executive regulations governing road works were planned, but the government was contemplating practical tactics to achieve coordination.

Yet another computer system will be introduced to coordinate road works, Cheong added. The computer system will handle applications from companies or entities that wish to start road works. Cheong expects the mode to help achieve data transparency. Executive regulations will only be made if stronger legal grounds are required to enforce the system.

Cheong was also questioned by Lo’s ally, Zheng Anting, for the lack of progress seen at the Red Market renovation site. Cheong hinted that he had no influence in the progress but promised to urge the builders to increase their pace.

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