|Chapter 6 Organisation, Administration and Staffing|
Chapter 6 Organisation, Administration and Staffing
The work of the Department is carried out by its three Divisions, namely the Application and Processing Division, the Litigation Division and the Policy and Administration Division, each headed by a Deputy Director as shown in the organisation chart in Appendix 3.
As part of the move to contain the size of the civil service, 10 posts were deleted during the year. In 2006, the Department continued to review its structure and resources through 3R measures (i.e. re-prioritisation, re-engineering and re-organisation) to ensure that the Department's resources would be deployed to priority service areas to enhance its operational efficiency and effectiveness.
Work of Various Divisions
The work and achievements of the Application and Processing Division and the Litigation Division are set out in Chapter 2. The Policy and Administration Division provides support to the entire operations of the Department. Its work and achievements during the year are described as follows.
Training and Development
The Department places great importance on training and development which are instrumental in enhancing staff performance and the provision of services to the public. The Training Unit, headed by a Senior Training Officer, serves as the executive arm of the Training Committee, which formulates and reviews training policies and plans. The Senior Training Officer plans, organises, implements and monitors various types of training programmes to meet the operational and development needs of staff.
In 2006, a number of generic and vocational training courses were arranged for staff of all levels. Some of the major training initiatives are described below:
Customer Service Training
A newly developed customer service workshop titled "If I were a Legal Aid applicant" was launched in 2006. The workshop was designed to inculcate an appropriate mindset and impart skills in working with customers. Using case study and role-play exercises based on real-life situations, participants were invited to examine the practical customer-related issues they would encounter in daily work from different perspectives. They were also encouraged to work out improvement measures to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency in delivering service. A total of six classes were organised with 268 staff members from the Legal Aid Counsel, Law Clerk and General Grades attending the workshop.
Job-Related Professional Training
A number of Legal Aid Counsel Grade officers attended external law seminars to keep abreast with the latest developments in the law. Law Clerk Grade staff were sponsored to attend legal studies run by tertiary institutes. In addition, a number of job related in-house courses were arranged for staff at different levels to improve their work knowledge. The programmes organised included Means Seminar on Legislative Amendments, talks on Judgment Summonses and Prohibition Orders, Seaman's Wages Claims, Use of the First Charge Calculator and the Protocol in Receiving Mainland Officials. These training programmes attracted a total of around 400 attendees from different grades and ranks.
Training on General Subjects
A wide variety of courses on general subjects such as Management, Communication, Language, China Studies and Information Technology were made available to staff to meet the developmental needs of individual officers. These included both internal and external training opportunities. A customised Performance Appraisal Writing Workshop was organised with the Civil Service Training and Development Institute targeting the appraisal report writing skills of Senior Law Clerks I and II.
Promoting a Culture of Learning and Self-development
The Department is committed to cultivating a continuous learning and self-development culture amongst staff. The Learning Resources Centre, which was set up in 2005, provides learning resources on subjects in management, communication, language and personal development. There are over 200 items including books, self-learning packages, videos and CDs available for loan by staff and more will be acquired in the future. Subscription to an online digital business library was arranged for directorate officers, which allowed them access to over 480 video-taped narratives by successful business leaders worldwide on a broad spectrum of management topics such as leadership, strategy, communication, human resources and managing people.
E-learning is advocated in the Department to facilitate self-development. All staff in the Legal Aid Department have access to the Department's intranet from which they can easily retrieve useful learning materials and work-related guidelines. Relevant resources on the central learning portal and the Cyber Learning Centre (CLC) were identified and promoted to staff to enable them to learn anywhere and at their own pace. Around 69% of LAD staff have registered with the CLC, which is above the average of 41% across the whole of the civil service.
Information Systems Strategy
Following the implementation of the Information Systems Strategy Programme in 2001-2002, the Department has in place an IT infrastructure and office automation facilities to assist all staff in their daily work. The Case Management and Case Accounting System supports over 500 users in handling business processes including processing of applications, assignment of cases to LAD officers and external service providers, monitoring progress of in-house and assigned-out cases, monitoring the accounts of legal aid cases and payments to the legally aided persons and assigned lawyers. In 2006, the System was enhanced to cope with the latest changes in business workflow and procedures. The Department also launched two IT initiatives during the year. A pilot scheme on the use of electronic Document Management System for handling criminal legal aid cases that enables the Department to maintain electronic copies of the trial/appeal bundles received from the prosecution/the court in criminal cases was introduced with full implementation planned for 2007. Work on implementing a Departmental E-portal known as "Legal Aid Electronic Services Portal (LAESP)" with target launch date in 2008 also started in late 2006. Details on LAESP have been referred to in the Foreword and Chapter 1.
Staff Relations and Communication
The Department maintains effective communication with staff through regular meetings with various staff representative bodies such as the Departmental Consultative Committees, the Law Clerks Association and the Legal Aid Counsel Association. Staff Newsletters are published to keep staff abreast of development in the Department and to promote staff's sense of belonging to the Department. Divisions/Sections continued to implement their respective internal communication strategies and plans in consultation with their staff on a regular basis. Informal meetings were held between Deputy Director of Legal Aid (Policy and Administration) and front-line general grades staff in the Litigation Division to canvas their views on their work and to discuss areas of improvement.
The Staff Club plans and organises recreational activities for staff to promote staff welfare. Activities organised in 2006 included bakery, Tai-chi, Yoga, Chinese calligraphy, Chinese painting, Chinese seal cutting and social dance classes. A basketball competition was organised jointly with the Legal Aid Counsel Association in October. Other activities such as the Mid-Autumn Festival mini bazaar and bulk purchase for Chinese New Year gift items were organised.
Through the Voluntary Services Group (VSG) which was formed in 2002 to encourage staff participation in community work, staff participated in various voluntary services such as flag selling for the Hong Kong Society for the Deaf during the year. Members of the VSG visited the elderly of the St. James Settlement during the Dragon Boat Festival. To show support for the International Volunteer Day on the 5th of December each year, VSG organised a charity bazaar in line with the "We Share to Care Volunteering Campaign" organised by the Agency for Volunteer Service to raise funds for the needy and disadvantaged as a way to show its care and concern.
Staff Motivation Activities
To enhance staff motivation, morale and departmental identity, the Department organised a "If I were a legal aid applicant" Design Competition to promote the Department's values and a "Game Corner" in each issue of Staff Newsletter during the year.
Staff Suggestion and Recognition Schemes
The Department encouraged staff to give suggestions under the Staff Suggestion Scheme (SSS). The Department continues to promote the departmental Commendation Letters Scheme and Staff Recognition Scheme for recognising and commending outstanding contribution and achievements of staff.
The Department is committed to ensuring its operations and activities are conducted in an environmentally responsible manner. The Department supports any effort to minimise waste, conserve energy, promote "reuse" and "recycle" of resources and to enhance staff awareness and participation in protecting the environment. The Department regularly reviews and ensures the use of its resources in an efficient and green manner. For details of the efforts made by the Department in protecting the environment in 2006, please refer to the Department's Environmental Report 2006 which can be viewed on the Department's website http://www.lad.gov.hk.
During 2006, apart from the regular reviews undertaken by the various Environmental Officers, an independent environmental audit was conducted to review the overall environmental initiatives in operations and to identify areas for savings where appropriate. The audit found the initiatives adopted by the Department satisfactory. In terms of savings in particular on utilities consumptions, auto-sensitised taps were installed to prevent the unnecessary waste of water, the air-conditioning system's operating hours were shortened, temperature level was suitably adjusted, energy saving fluorescent tubes were used in corridors and staff were assigned to monitor and to turn off lights during lunch hours and after work to save energy. On paper and stationery consumption, progressive savings were made since 2004. This was due to circulars and documents for internal communications being transmitted by emails and departmental publications being uploaded to the Homepage. Where appropriate, paper was also reused/recycled.
Wider Use of Chinese
The glossary of terms frequently used by staff for their day to day work and compiled by the Translation Office was updated during the year. Staff of the Department could access the glossaries through the intranet whilst preparing documents in Chinese. Apart from updating the glossary, the Translation Office provided telephone enquiry service to staff who encountered problems when drafting Chinese documents. The Language Platform, which was launched by the Translation Office in 2002, ran smoothly during the year. By posting articles on the intranet regularly, the Translation Office promoted the use of Chinese, shared with colleagues matters of interest relating to Chinese culture and traditions, and introduced useful tips on better writing skills.
As in the past few years, the Department continued to litigate selected matrimonial and criminal cases in Chinese and increase the use of Chinese in both internal and external communication.
The Internal Audit Team is an independent team established to assist management to ensure that there are adequate control procedures and systems to safeguard the Department's assets. It reviews the various activities of the Department in order to ensure an economical, efficient and effective use of the Department's financial, human and other resources. During the year, the Team reviewed the systems on the processing and granting of legal aid, Web-enabled Payment of Creditors (WPOCS), environmental audit with a view to identifying areas for savings, the Integrated Registration Information System provided by the Land Registry for conducting land searches in legal aid cases, maintenance of "client accounts" petty cash, imprest and advance accounts.
Support Service to the Legal Aid Services Council
Legal Aid Services Council (LASC) is a statutory body set up under the Legal Aid Services Council Ordinance Cap 489 to oversee the provision of legal aid services. The LASC is also responsible for advising the Chief Executive on matters of policy relating to legal aid. The LASC is chaired by a non-official who is not a barrister or solicitor and there is a total of 10 members comprising the Director of Legal Aid, legal representatives of the two legal professional bodies and lay members chosen from other fields. Representatives of the Department attend meetings of the Council and its Interest Groups as well as the Working Party on The Institution of Legal Aid and participate in its activities in promoting public awareness and understanding of the role of the Council and its relationship with the Department. The Department also provides progress reports and information relating to legal aid services to enable the Council to perform its functions.