The “Principal Officials Accountability System”: Its Underdevelopment as a System of Ministerial Government

Publisher:Taylor & Francis

Author:Eliza W.Y. Lee and Rikkie L.K. Yeung


Issue Date:April 26, 2017

The Principal Officials Accountability System (POAS), which was established in 2002 by the then Chief Executive, Tung Chee Hwa, marked the beginning of a Hong Kong-style system of ministerial government. As a major attempt at institutional reform in the postcolonial era, the reform has so far invited more negative than positive appraisals about its impact on public governance. Academic critiques, however, have barely touched on the problem from the perspectives of institutional design and development. Accordingly, this article analyses the institutional characteristics of the POAS as a ministerial system, and how these characteristics have shaped the working relationships between politicians and bureaucrats. The underlying argument is that, after one and a half decades, the POAS remains underdeveloped. This state of underdevelopment is the outcome of institutional change through incremental reforms leading to disjointedness and incoherence. There are worrying signs that under an increasingly authoritarian system, the core values of the civil service are gradually being eroded.

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