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 2009, 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 2009-10 financial year, the Department paid out $486 million in legal costs and $757 million to legally aided persons.  During the year, the Department exceeded all performance pledges on payment:


In 2009, the Accounts Unit had taken the following measures to improve the payment system:
(a) review Departmental Circular on payment to simplify and streamline the payment procedures;
(b) re-prioritise resources for processing payments by redeploying staff within the Accounts Unit;
(c) arrange for staff to attend training courses to familiarise with the new functions under the Government Financial Management Information System;
(d) enhance the case accounting system to facilitate checking of accounts and answering enquiries regarding receipts and payments;

Government Financial Management Information System (GFMIS)

In 2009, the Department successfully rolled out Phase 2 of GFMIS which included six modules namely Accounts Payable, Purchase Order, Accrual Accounting and Fixed Assets, Revenue Recording and Management and Costing Information Processing. The implementation enabled the Department's accounting and financial management operations and processes to be conducted in a more efficient and effective manner.  It also facilitates informed decision making, provided functionalities to meet both the cash-based and accrual-based financial reporting requirements.

June 3
Deputy Director of Legal Aid/Litigation, Ms Jennie Hui (middle in the front row) and Assistant Principal Legal Aid Counsel/Kowloon Branch Office, Mr Chris Chong (first from left in the front row) received Chinese Senior Judges from National Judges College of the Supreme People's Court of China and briefed them on the role and function of Legal Aid Department.

Analysis of Legal Aid Costs by Nature of Expenditure

Note: These 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.

July 15
Senior Legal Aid Counsel/Crime, Mr Nelson Kwok (top right) and Senior Legal Aid Counsel/Civil Litigation 2, Mr Joe Poon (top left) received a delegation of summer interns under the Law Firm Visit Programme, organised by Messrs Mayer Brown JSM, to share the experiences and views of Hong Kong's legal aid services and operation of our Department.

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 2009.  Major programmes held during the year were:

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 Insolvency Unit reviewed the appointment procedures and launched a trial run that aimed to shorten the time taken for wage claimants to be given an appointment by one week.

Phone Payment System

In order to facilitate payment to the Department by aided persons and judgement debtors, the Department conducted a feasibility study on Payment by Phone Service (PPS).  The outcome was positive.  Application was then made to and approval obtained from the Treasury at the end of the year for the Department to accept payment of contributions and judgement sums through the PPS to be introduced in mid-2010.

Improvement of soundproofing of interview rooms

To safeguard confidentiality of information given by applicants or aided persons during interviews, the Department has reviewed the quality of soundproofing of interview rooms at our Headquarters offices.  With the assistance of the Architectural Services Department, three soundproofing interview rooms were set up to replace the two old ones in our office on 25/F, Queensway Government Offices. 

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 investigation in a case is completed.  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 2009, the Unit received 63 representations against grant of legal aid on means and completed investigation in 70 cases.  Four cases were not pursued as there were no concrete and specific evidence for the Department to conduct meaningful investigation.  The Department referred 13 cases to the police for investigation as to whether any offence was committed under section 23 of the Legal Aid Ordinance, Cap. 91 and also under section 18A of the Theft Ordinance, Cap. 210 in one of these cases. As at 31 December 2009, the police successfully prosecuted two aided persons upon the Department's referral.  One was fined $2,500 and the other was given a community service order.

August 10
Director of Legal Aid, Mr Benjamin Cheung (middle in the front row), Assistant Principal Legal Aid Counsel/Civil Litigation 1, Mr Chris Chong (first from left in the back row) and Legal Aid Counsel, Miss Emily Ho (first from left in the front row) received eight lawyers from Mainland China and briefed them on the role and function of Legal Aid Department.

Means representations received and investigation outcome in 2008-2009 :

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. Where necessary, callers can speak to a staff member of the Department who will answer their queries concerning legal aid during office hours.