Statement on ArchSD's re-engineering

In response to press enquiries on criticisms made by the staff associations of Architectural Services Department (ArchSD) on the quality and standard of outsourced works and their gathering held today (7 May) to protest against increased outsourcing, a Government spokesman said:

"The Government fully appreciates the professional competency and achievements of ArchSD over the years, and understands the staff's concerns on the quality and standard of works as a result of increased outsourcing.

The increased outsourcing is an integral part of the re-engineering and outsourcing programme of ArchSD, under which the Department will assume the following new strategic roles :

(a) to strengthen its professional role as Government's corporate advisor on public building development and maintenance matters;

(b) to expand its role in working with the industry to improve the design and maintenance of public buildings and in promoting higher standards in construction, site management and safety; and

(c) to concentrate more on the project management and supervisory functions in delivering and maintaining public building projects.

The decision for re-engineering of the department is made after thorough consideration of the future roles and functions of ArchSD, the needs of the community for more public projects, the aspirations of the private sector to have more opportunities to take part in public projects, their capacity and capability in handling government projects, the recommendations of the management consultants etc. It is also in line with Government's policy objective of enhancing service quality and raising public sector productivity through increased partnership between the public and the private sectors.

There is a need for increased outsourcing of ArchSD's building projects and maintenance activities to enable it to discharge its new strategic roles. Further outsourcing in ArchSD will provide greater room for the private sector to develop its pool of expertise and resources through more active participation in government building and maintenance works. The additional work outsourced will also encourage the private sector to further invest in emerging technologies to the benefit of the community. This is conducive to the overall cost-effectiveness of outsourcing in the long run.

The quality of outsourced works will not be compromised under any circumstances. ArchSD will continue to oversee and upkeep the overall standard of works and will ensure the quality of works outsourced through appropriate service procurement arrangements, effective supervision and project management, as well as adoption of quality assurance measures and sound performance management.

ArchSD will work closely with the user departments to ensure the successful implementation of the outsourcing of building and maintenance projects. Detailed implementation plans, guidelines and codes of practices will be issued. Briefings, seminars, training and other forms of assistance will also be arranged to equip user departments with the necessary expertise to facilitate their interaction with consultants and contractors. ArchSD will retain its role as the Government's corporate adviser on building development and maintenance matters, and will continue to provide professional advice to the user departments on professional matters in future.

The Government has abundant experience in engaging the private sector in the delivery of various types of works projects. Other Works Departments, e.g. Territory Development Department, Highways Department, have already outsourced their works up to 90% of the total project value on average without compromising the standard or quality of works while achieving cost-effectiveness.

A business review on ArchSD by consultants in 2001 had found that the costs of delivering new projects by in-house resources or by outsourcing were broadly comparable. If the costs of ArchSD's monitoring of consultants were included, the professional services costs were slightly higher in those projects where some of the professional services were outsourced. The consultants have pointed out that these average figures are contrary to the common experience elsewhere that outsourcing will generally give rise to reduced or at least no higher costs. The consultants concluded that the available data did not, therefore, suggest strongly whether outsourcing or in-house provision was always more cost-effective.

The Government has undertaken that there will be no forced redundancy as a result of this outsourcing programme. The staff should therefore have no concern on job security.

The Government has also undertaken that staff will be consulted extensively on the re-engineering programme. Staff communication channels have been set up to facilitate the consultation process.

Suitable training, retraining and redeployment will be offered to those staff who will be affected by the re-engineering programme. An inter-departmental working group has been set up, comprising relevant Heads of Grades and Departments of affected staff, to work out the detailed staffing arrangements and related issues.

The Government will adopt a flexible and step-by-step approach and will conduct regular reviews on the implementation of the programme.

ArchSD will continue to maintain close communications with staff and consult them on matters relating to the programme. We look forward to the continued support and cooperation of staff in working together with the management of ArchSD in meeting the new challenges."

End/Tuesday, May 7, 2002