Following is a question by the Hon Alice Mak and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (January 7):
Under the Buildings Ordinance (Cap. 123) (BO), the Building Authority (BA) may designate that certain categories of building works are required to be carried out by registered specialist contractors (RSCs). Currently, there are five categories of works designated as specialised works, which include ventilation works. BA has also appointed the Contractors Registration Committee (Specialist Contractors)(CRC) in accordance with BO to assist him in considering applications for registration as specialist contractors. However, some persons engaged in ventilation works have complained to me about the unprofessional conduct of individual CRC members in processing their applications for registration as well as the unfair procedures and criteria for assessing such applications. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the number of applications for registration as specialist contractors received by the authorities and, among them, the percentage of the number of applications approved, in each of the past five years;
(2) of the average number of working days taken by the authorities for assessing and approving an application for registration as a specialist contractor in the past three years;
(3) of the qualifications of the various CRC members; the specific arrangements for conducting professional interviews by CRC with the applicants and their key personnel, including how the relevant qualifications, experience and knowledge of the personnel concerned are verified, and the arrangements for selecting CRC members to conduct such interviews; whether it has established a mechanism for declaration of interests by CRC members; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(4) whether CRC has adopted a uniform set of scoring methods and criteria in conducting interviews with the applicants and their key personnel; if CRC has not, how the authorities ensure that CRC members assess the applications concerned in an objective and impartial manner; whether the authorities conducted any review of the mechanism for assessing registration applications in the past five years; if they did, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(5) whether a mechanism is currently in place for applicants to appeal against CRC's decision for not recommending them for registration as RSCs and to lodge complaints about the failure of CRC members to consider their applications according to the assessment criteria, so as to protect the rights of the applicants?
The Buildings Department (BD) has formulated a contractors registration system under the Buildings Ordinance (BO). The objective of the system is to ensure that only contractors who are competent in carrying out their work and duties as well as conversant with the relevant statutory requirements and the current building control system are registered and allowed to carry out buildings works and street works.
Certain types of building works must be carried out by registered specialist contractors. In this connection, BD currently maintains different contractors' registers for five categories of specialised works, namely demolition works, foundation works, ground investigation field works, site formation works and ventilation works. Contractors applying for inclusion in the registers and their Authorised Signatories must possess relevant qualifications and experience and are required to pass an assessment or interview conducted by the Contractors Registration Committee (CRC) established under the BO. BD has also issued the "Guidance Notes for Applicants on Registration as General Building Contractors/Specialist Contractors", which sets out the application procedures, requirements and scope of interview, etc. for registration for applicants' reference.
My reply to the five-part question is as follows:
(1) The numbers of applications for registration as specialist contractors, number of applications approved and the percentages of approval in each of the past five years are tabulated below.
2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
---- ---- ---- ---- ----
Nos. of applications 31 46 43 35 42
Nos. of approved 12 15 15 16 6*
Percentages of 38.7 32.6 34.9 45.7 14.3*
* Some of the applications received in 2014 are still under processing.
(2) BD has no statistics on the time required for assessing and approving an application for registration as a specialist contractor. Nevertheless, with effect from November 1, 2014, BD has implemented streamlined procedures for processing applications for registration as general building contractors or specialist contractors. Under the said procedures, if all the required documents are complete, BD will refer an application to the CRC and arrange for assessment or interview within two months from the date of receipt of the application. According to Section 8B(7) of the BO, BD will inform the applicant of his application result within three months after the assessment or interview.
(3) The CRC responsible for considering applications for inclusion in a register of specialist contractors is set up under Section 8(3A) of the BO, which shall consist of:
(a) the Building Authority's representative;
(b) three persons, one of whom is nominated by each of the Architects Registration Board, the Engineers Registration Board and the Surveyors Registration Board from the lists of Authorised Persons, Registered Structural Engineers and Registered Geotechnical Engineers;
(c) three persons nominated by The Hong Kong Construction Association Ltd.; and
(d) two persons selected by the Building Authority from among persons nominated by such bodies as the Building Authority may think fit. The Building Authority will determine the appropriate bodies with reference to the nature of works. Taking the CRC responsible for considering applications in respect of ventilation contractors as an example, the representatives concerned are nominated by the Hong Kong E&M Contractors' Association Limited, the Hong Kong Registered Ventilation Contractors Association, and the Engineers Registration Board (Building Services Engineer).
Each CRC serves a term of two years. The Chairman is elected by the members among themselves but he cannot be the Building Authority's representative. Before the commencement of each term, BD will provide guidelines to all members so that they will understand the functions and composition of the CRC, relevant procedures and matters regarding declaration of interests, etc.
For the interview, its purpose is to ascertain whether an applicant possesses the qualifications and experience required for carrying out his designated functions and that he has the competence to apply such knowledge in executing and supervising building works and street works. Each CRC member will assess the applicant individually, and then the Chairman will lead the members to cast their votes to arrive at a final decision, and advise BD on whether the applications should be accepted, deferred or rejected.
Regarding the mechanism for declaration of interests, according to the guidelines issued by BD to the members, if members are aware of any potential conflict between their own interests and the items to be discussed or the applicants, they must make full disclosure of their interests. If a member's interests relating to other members are possibly in conflict with the interests of the applicants, he must also make full disclosure of his interests as mentioned above. Each time before the CRC starts interviewing, all members must confirm in writing, by completing a standard form, that they do not have a conflict of interests with the applicants.
(4) In conducting an interview, the CRC will make use of a standard assessment form to assess the applicant on the following aspects:
(a) the documents submitted by the applicant;
(b) the adequacy of its management structure if the applicant is a corporation;
(c) the appropriate experience, qualifications and competence of the personnel;
(d) the applicant's ability to have access to plant and resources; and
(e) the ability of the Authorised Signatory to apply relevant knowledge (including the BO and its Regulations, relevant codes of practice, practice notes, etc.).
In 2010, the Independent Commission Against Corruption conducted a review on the fairness and impartiality of the registration system and the relevant procedures and gave its recommendations to BD in 2010 and 2012 respectively, including those on amending the interview procedures, the declaration of interest mechanism for members, the standard of integrity expected of members and the procedures of registration application. BD adopted the recommendations by, inter alia, amending accordingly the guidelines for the CRC in 2011. Subsequently, in 2014, BD conducted another review of and made amendments to the voting mechanism of the CRC, allowing the Chairman to cast his vote when the votes of members are equal. The amended mechanism will be implemented in the next term (i.e. 2015-16) of the CRC.
(5) According to Section 9A of the BO, a person who is aggrieved by a decision of a CRC may appeal to a judge of the Court of First Instance. On an appeal the judge may confirm, reverse or vary the decision of the CRC. The BD would also appropriately follow up the complaint lodged by an applicant against any individual CRC members.
Ends/Wednesday, January 7, 2015
Issued at HKT 14:35