Legal Aid department
Legal Aid department annual report 2008
Foreword
Departmental Strategic Plan
Legal Aid Services
Cases of Public Interest or Concern
Improving the Way We Work
Publicity Programmes
Organisation, Administration and Staffing
Appendix
Revenue and Expenditure
Findings of the Survey on Customer Feedback
Legal Aid Department Organisation Chart
Director of Legal Aid and Section Heads
Address and Communication
List of Publications

Chapter 4
Improving the Way We Work

The Department is committed to be a provider of quality legal aid services and will continually find ways to better its performance through a customer-focused approach when delivering its services.

Performance Pledges

Processing of Applications

In 2008, the Department's actual performance exceeded the various targets for processing legal aid applications within the standard processing time set in the performance pledges.

Payment to Aided Persons and Service Providers

In the 2008-09 financial year, the Department paid out $430 million in legal costs and $750 million to legally aided persons.  During the year, the Department exceeded all performance pledges on payment:

Government Financial Management Information System (GFMIS)

In 2008, the Cash Ledger Module of the Government Financial and Management Information System (GFMIS), a system which the Department has collaborated with the Treasury to develop replacing the Ledger Accounting and Financial Information System (LAFIS) that had been in use for keeping Government Accounts since 1983, became fully operational having been rolled out just before the end of 2007. 

The Module provided automated preparation of journals for accounting adjustments and vouchers for transfer of funds (transfer vouchers) between departments.  It enhanced the efficiency and effectiveness in monitoring the journals for accounting adjustments and status of transfer vouchers, thereby safeguarding the accuracy of fund transfer between departments.  Apart from Cash Ledger, the other functions of GFMIS available to the Department included on-line enquiry functions and preparation of financial management reports.  GFMIS also provided a user-friendly reporting tool to facilitate the design of tailor-made reports for the Department.

In 2008, the Department conducted the following on-going reviews of the payment system:

  1. simplification and streamlining of the payment procedures;
  2. re-prioritization of resources for processing payments;
  3. training of staff to improve understanding of their duties and work flow involved;
  4. enhancement of the case accounting system to facilitate checking of accounts and answering enquiries regarding receipts and payments;
  5. payments arrangement to aided persons through bank accounts; and
  6. internal performance standards for processing payments.
June 13
Acting Assistant Principal Legal Aid Counsel/Legal and Management Support, Mr Steve Wong and Senior Legal Aid Counsel, Ms Mandy Chow, met a group of young Chinese lawyers under the Lord Chancellor's Training Scheme and briefed them on the legal aid services in Hong Kong.

Analysis of Legal Aid Costs by Nature of Expenditure

Note : Others include expenses for Land & Company Search, Court fees & Taxing fees, Law (costs) draftsman's fee, Expert's fee, Copying charges & Bank charges, and miscellaneous expenses.

August 1
Acting Assistant Principal Legal Aid Counsel/Legal and Management Support, Ms Doris Lui (right), received a group of law school students of Shantou University in Guamgdong to brief them the legal aid system in Hong Kong.

Training on Customer Service

To reinforce the customer-focused culture in the Department, various in-house and external programmes on customer service related topics were arranged for staff of different ranks in 2008.  Major programmes held during the year were:

  • In-house seminar on Defusing Hostile Customers
  • Customer Service Seminar: Driving service excellence through effective complaints management 
  • Serving problem customers and customers with special needs – driving quality through awareness
  • Customer service skills on the telephone
  • Say it right and well for frontline staff
  • How to handle potentially violent clients

Customer Feedback

The Department conducted surveys on customer feedback on different aspects of the legal aid services covering, for example, the application and processing procedures for legal aid and the Department's in-house litigation services.  Different methodologies such as on the spot collection and mail surveys were used depending on the points of contact and on the stages and types of services rendered to the customers.  The aim is to obtain comprehensive and regular feedback from our customers.

During the year, the overall customer satisfaction level remained high.  The charts and diagrams at Appendix 2 illustrate the major findings of the survey on customer feedback.

In response to the feedback received, the Department launched the following customer service improvement measures which included providing telephone answering skill training for frontline staff on proper telephone etiquette, revising guidance notes to make it easier for prospective applicants to complete the form for submission of information prior to submitting an application for legal aid, providing EQ training to staff to assist them managing their own emotions as well as that of the applicants/aided persons.

Improvement of soundproofing of interview rooms

To safeguard confidentiality of information given by applicants or aided persons during interviews, the Department reviewed the sound proofing of interview rooms in the Kowloon Branch Office.  Works aimed at improving the sounding proofing quality of interviews rooms were carried out in 2008 with the assistance of the Architectural Services Department. 

Complaints and Representations

As part of our customer feedback system, the Department places great importance on following up with the handling of complaints and representations.  Customer's concerns and suggestions are viewed by the Department as a means of improving its service and ensuring the fulfilment of its statutory functions.  Supervisors and professional officers are kept abreast of the latest concepts and strategies in handling and managing different types of complaints in a positive manner through initiatives and training programmes.

The Application and Processing Division is responsible for conducting review into representations against grant of legal aid on merits. 

Representations against grant of legal aid on means are handled by the Special Duties and Research Unit.  Legal aid may be continued, discharged or revoked once the Unit completed its investigation in a case.  When circumstances warrant it, the Department may refer suitable cases to the police for investigation for misrepresentations by the applicants or legally aided persons in contravention of section 23 of the Legal Aid Ordinance

In 2008, the Unit received 58 representations against grant of legal aid on means and completed investigation in 45 cases.  Two cases were not pursued as the representors had not provided concrete and specific evidence for the Department to conduct meaningful investigation.  The Department had referred seven cases to the police for investigation with a view to prosecuting the applicants or aided persons concerned, four under section 23 of the Legal Aid Ordinance, Cap. 91 and three under sections 32 and 36 of the Crimes Ordinance, Cap. 200 and section 18A of the Theft Ordinance, Cap. 210.

August 8
Director of Legal Aid, Mr Benjamin Cheung (front row, second from left) received a delegation of lawyers from Shanghai City.

Means representations received and investigation outcome in 2007-2008 :

LAD's Hotline Service - the Interactive Voice Response System

The Department's hotline service provides a fast and convenient means for members of the public to learn about the legal aid services.  It has recorded messages in Cantonese, Putonghua and English on different aspects of legal aid services such as application procedures, eligibility criteria for civil and criminal legal aid, the aided person's liability to contribute towards the costs of aided proceedings etc.  With the implementation of the Legal Aid Electronic Services Portal (LAESP), a new recorded message was added to the hotline advising the public on the type of technical support required if they intend to access the LAESP.  Where necessary, callers can speak to a staff member of the Department who will answer their queries concerning legal aid during office hours. 

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