Following is a question by the Dr Hon HO Chung-tai and a written reply by the Secretary for Works, Mr Lee Shing-see, at the Legislative Council meeting today (May 15) :
Under current practice, the main contractors of government construction works are responsible for both construction material testing and works acceptance tests. This may create a conflict of interest situation where the material supplier and the testing agent have a close business relationship and result in unsatisfactory quality control of the construction works. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council whether:
(a) it will review the current practice; if so, of the timetable for the review; if not, the reasons for that;
(b) this practice will apply to the infrastructure projects which are to be implemented in the next 15 years as mentioned in the Chief Executive's 2001 Policy Address; and
(c) it will consider implementing the Independent Commission Against Corruption ("ICAC")'s recommendation of employing independent testing laboratories for material testing and works acceptance tests, as set out in the ICAC report on Construction Quality Control Testing published in December 1999; if so, of the implementation timetable; if not, the reasons for that?
(a) In 2000 Works Bureau had completed a review on the usage of public works laboratories aiming at better construction quality control testing in terms of service utilization of the public works laboratories; testing independence; and sampling, storage and transportation. Particular reference was made to the independence of the testing laboratories to avoid the potential conflict of interest. We have implemented a series of measures as follows: -
(i) In June 2000 Works Bureau has issued a Technical Circular (WBTC 14/2000) setting out the policy to tighten up the control on construction materials and works acceptance testing for all public works projects to avoid potential conflict of interest. It requires the works departments undertaking public works to use the Public Works Laboratories or their term contract laboratories to carry out such acceptance testing.
Should there be any need for practical reasons to employ other laboratories, a stringent set of requirements on sample selection, transportation, test supervision and audits are imposed to avoid potential conflict of interest. These include the condition that the laboratory so employed must have no affiliation as a legal entity to the contractor and its sub-contractors. Test results must be sent directly to the project engineer/architect in sealed envelope, without routing through the contractor.
(ii) In 2001 the General Specification for Civil Engineering Works (GS) was revised to implement the policy promulgated in the above circular. The General Specification for Building has also been reviewed and similar revision will be made in its new 2002 edition. A particular specification for building works to incorporate the necessary requirements has been issued in May 2002.
(b) Having incorporated the above measures, the new system has made improvement and is working very well. As part of the continuous improvement, Works Bureau will review the system from time to time to achieve a high standard of quality control testing. The improved system will continue to apply to the upcoming infrastructure projects.
(c) The use of independent laboratories for material testing and works acceptance tests as set out in the recommendations in the ICAC report on Construction Quality Control Testing published in December 1999 has already been promulgated in the above Works Bureau Technical Circular, and implemented in the specifications used in public works.
End/Wednesday, May 15, 2002