|Chapter 4 Improving the Way We Work|
Chapter 4 Improving the Way We Work
The Department is committed to providing quality legal aid services through a customer-focused approach when delivering its services.
Processing of Applications
Payment to Aided Persons and Service Providers
In the 2006-07 financial year, the amount of payments to clients and total legal aid costs incurred (including payment to assigned lawyers) were $614 million and $419 million respectively. During the year, the Department exceeded all performance pledges on payment:
The Department will continue to make improvement to the payment system by keeping the following matters under constant review:
(a) simplifying and streamlining the payment procedures;
(b) re-focusing our resources in processing of payments;
(c) providing training and guidelines to staff to improve their understanding of their duties and the work flow involved;
(d) enhancing the information system to facilitate checking of accounts and answering enquiries regarding receipts and payments;
(e) arranging payments to aided persons through bank accounts; and
(f) setting internal performance standards for each section for processing payments.
Training on Customer Service
Various in-house and external programmes on customer service were arranged for staff at different levels to reinforce the customer-focused culture in the Department. Around 440 Professional Officers, Law Clerk Grade and General Grades staff participated in customer service training of one kind or another. Some of the major programmes held during the year were:
During the year staff made useful suggestions for improving customer service such as publicising the Department's provision of interpreters for applicants who are not conversant in Chinese or English. Other staff suggestions responded to the Departmental goal of caring for the environment. One such suggestion was to use recyclable bags to collect waste paper instead of black plastic garbage bags. This has since been put into practice.
As a result of the Department's ongoing commitment to customer service, regular reviews of customer feedback were undertaken during the year to identify customer demands and to take appropriate steps to respond to such needs.
Customer feedback is captured on different aspects of the services the Department provides, covering, for example, legal aid application processing and litigation. Different methodologies such as on the spot collection and mail surveys are 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 very high. The charts and diagrams at Appendix 2 illustrate the major findings of the survey on customer feedback.
Complaints and Representations
As part of our customer feedback system, the Department places great importance on following up with customers' complaints and representations. Their concerns and suggestions are viewed by the Department as a means of improving its service and ensuring the fulfillment of its statutory functions. Supervisors and professional officers would be kept abreast of the latest concepts and strategies in handling and managing different types of complaints in a positive manner through various initiatives and training programmes.
While the responsible section of the Application and Processing Division conducts review for representations against grant of legal aid on merits, the Department's Special Duties and Research Unit carries out investigations on representations against grant of legal aid on means.
After the Special Duties and Research Unit have completed their investigation into the representation against grant of legal aid on means in a particular case, legal aid may be continued, discharged or revoked. Some cases may also be referred to the police for investigation for misrepresentations made by the applicants or legally aided persons in contravention of section 23 of the Legal Aid Ordinance.
Of the 27 representations against grant of legal aid on means received in 2006, investigation was completed on 19 cases and four cases were not pursued or dealt with for other reasons, for example, in one case, the aided person passed away before investigation could take place. The Department referred three of the substantiated cases to police for further investigation with a view to prosecuting the aided persons concerned under section 23 of the Legal Aid Ordinance.
LAD's Hotline Service - the Interactive Voice Response System
Members of the public can learn about legal aid services by calling the Department's hotline service, the Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS), via hotline number 25377677. The hotline service provides recorded messages in Cantonese, Putonghua and English on different aspects of legal aid services such as application procedures and eligibility criteria for civil and criminal legal aid, the aided person's responsibility for contributing towards the costs of aided proceedings etc. Where necessary, callers can speak to staff members of the Department who will answer their queries concerning legal aid during office hours. In view of the popularity and high usage of the service, the Department has installed a new feature of queue positioning to the IVRS. From March 2006 onwards, callers are advised of their queue positions if they choose to speak to the staff of the Department so that they will know approximately how long they have to wait for their calls to be answered. If the number of callers exceeds the limit of queue position, the system delivers an announcement to advise callers to call again later.