LegCo Paper No. ESC 49/96-97
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB1/F/3/2

Establishment Subcommittee

Minutes of the proceedings of the meeting held on Wednesday, 14 May 1997, at 10:35 am in the Legislative Council Chamber

Members present :

    Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP (Chairman)
    Dr Hon Anthony
    CHEUNG Bing-leung (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon SZETO Wah
    Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
    Hon Michael HO Mun-ka
    Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing
    Hon Fred LI Wah-ming
    Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong
    Hon CHAN Wing-chan
    Hon IP Kwok-him

Members absent :

    Dr Hon David K P LI, OBE, LLD (Cantab), JP
    Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, OBE, JP
    Dr Hon HUANG Chen-ya, MBE
    Hon Henry TANG Ying-yen
    Dr Hon Samuel WONG Ping-wai, OBE, FEng, JP
    Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, OBE, JP
    Hon Paul CHENG Ming-fun
    Hon CHENG Yiu-tong
    Hon LAW Chi-kwong
    Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
    Hon Margaret NG
    Hon NGAN Kam-chuen
    Hon Mrs Elizabeth WONG, CBE, ISO, JP

Public officers attending :

    Mrs Carrie LAM
    Deputy Secretary for the Treasury
    Deputy Secretary for the Civil Service
    Mrs Sarah KWOK
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Security
    Mr S H LEUNG
    Assistant Director of Buildings
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Works
    Project Manager/Airport and Port Access, Highways Department
    Mr C W WONG
    Government Engineer, Highways Department
    Mr Richard YUEN
    Deputy Secretary for Economic Services
    Assistant Director of Marine

Clerk in attendance :

    Mrs Constance LI
    Chief Assistant Secretary (Finance Committee)

Staff in attendance :

    Mrs Vivian KAM
    Assistant Secretary General 1
    Mr CHEUK Wing-chuen
    Senior Assistant Secretary (Finance Committee)2

EC(97-98)6 - Proposed creation of a permanent post of Chief Building Surveyor (D1) to head a new Fire Safety Improvement Section in the Buildings Department

1. Members noted that a new Fire Safety Improvement Section had to be established in the Buildings Department because the existing two Control Sections in the Control & Enforcement Division were already fully committed to deal with the increased number of complaints of unauthorized building works (UBW). In this connection, a member expressed concern whether the problem of UBW was getting out of control. The Assistant Director of Buildings (AD/B) advised that the increased number of reports was apparently due to increased public awareness of the problem as a result of community education campaigns. Notwithstanding that the number of UBW reports had increased from 6 900 in 1992 to 9 700 in 1996, the Buildings Department had been able to complete inspections and prioritise any enforcement works required within 40 days as pledged. As a result of these inspections, more advisory letters and removal orders had been issued, and 9 586 UBWs were demolished in 1996, as compared to 6 680 in 1992.

2. Responding to a member, AD/B advised that legislative changes would be required to upgrade the fire safety standard of some 1 400 commercial buildings with their building plans submitted before 1987. Priority would be accorded to 400 old commercial buildings which were constructed before there were mandatory requirements for sprinkler installations in 1973. AD/B hoped to complete inspection of these 400 buildings with advisory letters issued within the coming 12 months. However, he expected that remedial works for these buildings could only be completed within two years upon enactment of the new legislation.

3. The item was voted on and endorsed.

EC(97-98)7 - Proposed retention of a supernumerary post of Government Engineer (D2) up to 31 March 1998 in the Highways Department to manage claims resolution and contract finalisation work in respect of Route 3 and North Lantau Expressway

4. On the proposed duration of the supernumerary post, the Project Manager/Airport and Port Access, Highways Department (PM/Hy) advised that the post would be further retained for six months up to March 1998 when most outstanding claims would have been resolved by that time. The timeframe was estimated on the basis of past experience and current progress of negotiation with contractors concerned.

5. Addressing members’ concern about cost over-run in public works projects, PM/Hy clarified that although the adoption of fixed-price lump sum contracts was to minimise cost over-run due to inflation factors, there could still be price variations because of claims arising from unforeseen circumstances or justified contract variations. All claims would be scrutinised by the Government, and for justified claims, an amount of award would be made to the contractor under the provisions of the contract. In case of disputes, the claims would be settled by mediation, adjudication or arbitration.

6. In reply to members, PM/Hy advised that it was not uncommon for Government to issue variation orders due to unforeseen circumstances such as additional works, changes in design or government standards or other justified causes. In the case of the North Lantau Expressway (NLE) project, over 1 000 variation orders and site instructions had been issued by Government. In this connection, over 660 claims totalling $2.2 billion had been received, $1 billion of which involving 330 claims had already been settled at $228 million. The remaining claims of $1.2 billion represented about 17% of the corresponding tender price. At members’ request, the Administration would provide further information regarding the number and amount of claims received under this project as compared to other Airport Core Programme (ACP) projects.Admin

7. As regards whether all outstanding claims could be settled by March 1998, the Government Engineer of Highways Department advised that contractors were given 28 days for lodging their claims after the occurrence of the incident. Now that all the ACP portions of Route 3 and NLE had been substantially completed, the chance of receiving further claims was greatly reduced. For record purpose, claims in respect of Route 3 had mostly been settled while those for NLE were under processing. PM/Hy added that given the experience gained from processing the Route 3 claims and that the approach adopted by contractors concerned were so far not unreasonable, he was confident that most outstanding claims could be resolved by March 1998. To allay members’ concern, the Chairman advised that the Administration should provide the LegCo Panel on Planning, Lands and Works an interim report in six months on the progress in processing these claims.Admin

8. The Chairman then put the item to the vote. The proposal was endorsed.

EC(97-98)5 Proposed reorganisation of Marine Department

9. The item was voted on and endorsed.

10. The Committee was adjourned at 11:20 am.

Legislative Council Secretariat
30 May 1997

Last Updated on 12 August 1999