WB responds to PAC report

In response to press enquiries on the report of the Public Accounts Committee on the review on control of utility openings and the construction of two bridges, a Works Bureau spokesman said:

"We take serious note of the PAC's comments.

On the subject of the control of utility openings, we will take a parallel approach to better co-ordinate road openings through legislative and administrative means.

On the legislative front, we have taken forward to introduce amendments to the Land (Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance to tighten control and encourage early completion on road excavation works. We are conducting full consultation with the industry and the Legislative Council on the proposal and will introduce the legislative amendment to LegCo in April 2002.

It is never the intention of the supervisory staff of the Highways Department to avoid reporting non-compliance with excavation permit conditions and unattended sites in favour of the utility operators. Notwithstanding this, the department has already taken necessary steps to strengthen site inspection and control of utility openings.

We have also put emphasis to the training of site supervisory staff. Apart from enhanced training, the inspectorate staff of the department also carries out audit checks to ensure their subordinates have properly discharged their site inspection duties on control of utility openings.

We have also taken the following administrative initiatives to better co-ordinate the road opening issues:

* work closely with utility operators to streamline the excavation permit application procedures and to establish guidelines on the accuracy of utility records for planning new facilities, minimising obstructions and diversions during installation, and

* introduce internet interface for the utility management system and the electronic mark plant circulation system in late 2002 to improve operation efficiency and enhance its accessibility to non-utility users for coordination with others.

On the subject of the construction of two bridges, we have started implementation of the necessary improvement measures.

We will continue our effort in achieving the following improvement measures:

* Appropriate wind load factors for aerodynamic design of bridges in Hong Kong have been established and are being used for the design of the new bridges.

* The consultancy for the review of the structures design manual has been completed and the final report is being prepared. The manual will be amended accordingly in April 2002.

* We are preparing further reference material on design-and-build contracts to specify the essential requirements in works contracts. All works departments have been notified of the audit recommendations and reminded to minimise the occurrence of similar cases in future

* We are amending contract provisions on the confidentiality of the terms of dispute settlements. The amended provisions will allow the Administration to disclose such information to the PAC. This would certainly facilitate the deliberations on the Director of Audit's reports. The changes will be implemented following consultation with the construction industry."

End/Wednesday, February 6, 2002