Finding fulfilment in public service
Charlix Wong, deputy director of accounting services of the Treasury, joined the civil service as the most direct way to serve the community and contribute to society. He was also attracted by its well-rounded, professional environment.
“The career prospects in the government are excellent,” says Wong, whose department is responsible for managing the payments and collections of 80-plus bureaus and departments, as well as preparing and supervising accounts and providing accounting and financial management services.
“We have two grades of staff. The first is the accounting officer grade, where a fresh accounting graduate can apply. After gaining a recognised professional accountancy qualification and the necessary post-qualification experience, he can apply for the treasury accountant grade, which is a professional rank.
“In this grade, one can rise from treasury accountant to senior treasury accountant, chief treasury accountant or even higher directorate ranks.”
After graduating from the University of Hong Kong in 1985, Wong worked for a private audit firm before joining the civil service as an accounting officer in 1986. In 1993, he was appointed to the rank of treasury accountant.
Over the years, he has served in various departments and policy bureaus. He has also sat on the HKICPA’s ethics committee and auditing and assurance standards committee, on which he was able to keep abreast of developments in the accountancy profession.
Before his current post, Wong served as the secretary to the working group on long-term fiscal planning. “The working group has worked very hard to explore ways to make more comprehensive planning for Hong Kong’s public finances to cope with the ageing population and the government’s other long-term commitments,” he says.
He explains that working in government can present greater challenges and fulfilment than working in the private sector. One reason for this is that civil service accountants are posted to new departments every three or four years.
“The regular postings give us a wide exposure to different job functions,” he says. “We interact with different people from different departments and the private sector.
“Some are responsible for preparing the budget. Others handle resource management, financial accounting, costing, IT system development, internal audit, funds management, investment activities, forensic investigations and special projects – such as the launch of the two-dollar public transport fare concession scheme.”
He says that putting knowledge and skills into practice in the public service arena is very different from the commercial arena. “First of all, we are required to have political acumen, not just commercial sense, because of the financial implications when we provide advice in the formulation and implementation of public policies,” he says.
“Working in government also puts us under close public scrutiny, so we need to be whiter than white and act in a trustworthy, professional, competent and reliable manner.
“Working under such a demanding environment requires passion and the commitment to work and serve in the best interests of the community. These are the unique challenges that are quite distinct from working in the private sector.”
The Treasury’s vision is “to lead and excel” in the provision of accounting and financial management services. “In keeping with this vision, we strive to achieve a mission encompassing three core values: professionalism, stewardship and customer-centricity.
“We need to continually explore ways to achieve higher efficiency with lower costs for revenue collection and payment activities.”