The rates concession granted by the government for the 08/09 financial year has placed the city's 160-year-old rates system and the Rating and Valuation Department in the spotlight.
The department's role is to provide equitable valuations for the efficient collection of rates and government rent. "We used to carry out revaluation exercises every three years, but due to rapid societal change and higher public expectations we now do it annually," says Tsui Chi-hung, principal valuation surveyor, Rating and Valuation Department.
Aside from handling more than 2.3 million assessments and thousands of objection cases annually, the department, which employs more than 800 staff, aims at delivering quality property information to contribute to the ongoing development of a transparent and efficient property market. An annual publication Hong Kong Property Review is produced to publicise end-of-year information on completions, take-up, vacancy, prices and rents of properties in Hong Kong. The department also plans to launch a new online Property Information System to provide the public with access to property information.
To enhance its operations through advanced information technology, the department recently completed a five-year plan. This is in line with the government's 2008 Digital 21 Strategy, a blueprint for the development of information and communications technology in Hong Kong.
Customer-oriented electronic services will include e-demand notes and more e-requisition forms for property information. "We believe in growing and changing with the times," Mr Tsui notes. "Our aim is to enhance service efficiency and promote a greener environment."
The department is keen on improving efficiency and customer service by ongoing assessment of existing practices and identification of change opportunities. "Following research by external consultants and the government's Efficiency Unit, we've introduced a business process reengineering mechanism to streamline operations and we constantly review our procedures to upgrade service levels," Mr Tsui stresses, adding that the department takes heed of public expectations and keeps up with global developments so as to maintain the best position for optimum service delivery.
As the property market fluctuates, it also creates bountiful opportunities across the board. Since the recruitment freeze ended a couple of months ago, the Rating and Valuation Department has been looking for suitable candidates to fill civil servant positions like assistant valuation surveyor and valuation surveyor. A valuation surveying graduate (non-civil servants) scheme was also put in place to offer young graduates on-the-job training towards the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors or Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors qualifications.
The department's staff development section runs induction programmes for new recruits and identifies training needs. Courses range from language and information technology to management training.
"On-the-job training helps hone the specific practical skills necessary for working in government service," Mr Tsui notes. "A mentorship scheme has also been implemented and it enables assistant valuation surveyors and valuation surveying graduates to work under the guidance of senior valuation surveyors."
The role of government valuation surveyors is similar to that of surveyors in the private sector, says Mr Tsui, but while traditional valuation methods like "comparison" or "receipt and expenditure" are used by both sectors, the government has introduced a geographic information system (GIS), which is linked to a computer-assisted mass appraisal (CAMA) system to perform valuation analysis and provide estimated values.
The government offers a solid foundation for professional development and a comparatively stable working environment, Mr Tsui points out. "Working for the government, you get to familiarise yourself with the rules and regulations and ensure that every procedure complies with the law. If you enjoy offering your service to the general public, this is the right place for you," Mr Tsui adds, explaining that the multifaceted nature of the job facilitates cross-functional development. Surveyors in the computer division or support services division, for example, provide centralised support to the entire department. This entails research, data analysis and maintaining and developing computer systems.
Prospective candidates must be highly professional and passionate about the field. Integrity and persistence to complete tasks on time are other important attributes. "Team leaders are expected to demonstrate excellent leadership skills, provide clear directives, build trust and maintain a harmonious and cooperative working environment to facilitate efficient service delivery," Mr Tsui adds, advising prospective surveyors to keep up with developments in the local property market, as well as on the mainland and further afield.
- Passion, integrity and persistence essential
- Lateral developments encouraged
- Continuous enhancement opportunities ample