Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. ESC 20
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref : CB1/F/3/2

Establishment Subcommittee of the
Provisional Legislative Council

Minutes of the meeting held at the Legislative Council Chamber on Wednesday, 8 October 1997, at 10:45 am

Members present:

Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong (Chairman)
Hon NG Leung-sing (Deputy Chairman)
Hon WONG Siu-yee
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon Mrs Peggy LAM, JP
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon TSANG Yok-sing
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon IP Kwok-him
Hon CHOY So-yuk

Members absent :

Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, JP
Dr Hon David LI Kwok-po, JP
Hon Henry WU
Hon Henry TANG Ying-yen, JP
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
Hon HUI Yin-fat, JP
Hon Kennedy WONG Ying-ho
Dr Hon Charles YEUNG Chun-kam
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
Hon Paul CHENG Ming-fun, JP
Hon CHENG Yiu-tong
Hon Timothy FOK Tsun-ting

Public officers attending :

Mrs Carrie LAM, JP
Deputy Secretary for the Treasury

Deputy Secretary for the Civil Service

Mr Allan CHOW
Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport

Project Director/Lantau Fixed Crossing, Highways Department

Principal Assistant Secretary for Health and Welfare

Professor A J HEDLEY
Chairman of the Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health

Clerk in attendance :

Mrs Vivian KAM
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)5

Staff in attendance :

Ms Pauline NG
Assistant Secretary General 1

Ms Anita SIT
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)8

EC(97-98)22 Proposed retention of a supernumerary post of Government Engineer (D2) for a period of nine months with effect from 1 January 1998 in the Highways Department to oversee the construction and commissioning of the Ting Kau Bridge and Approach Viaduct project

Noting that the contractor of the Ting Kau Bridge and Approach Viaduct (TKB) project was required to engage its own consultants for designing and building the project, some members urged the Administration to advance the planning process for such major infrastructural developments in the future so as to allow time for detailed design and for timely completion of the projects. The Project Director/Lantau Fixed Crossing (PD/LFC) agreed with the need for early planning in general. For the TKB project, he explained that the Administration had decided on the fast track arrangement of design-and-build with the objective of completing the project before the opening of the new airport. The project duration of 34 months, in comparison with that of 54 months for the Kap Shui Mun Bridge project, was tight although all seven selected tenderers had affirmed the viability of such a construction period at the tender stage.

2.On the reasons for the delay of the TKB project, PD/LFC advised that these were attributed to the difficult process involved in the removal of contaminated mud in the seabed in compliance with environmental requirements, and the revision of the TKB design to take account of the wind tunnel test results. The main cause for the delay was with the longer time required for completing the steel fabricated works of the bridge superstructure, the manufacture of which was very complicated on account of the special requirements and design of the TKB. The quality of the steel fabrication works, which were manufactured at Shekou in the Mainland, was substandard initially but this had subsequently improved upon tightening of monitoring by the Government.

3.In response to members' questions on the legal liabilities for the delay and the claims underway, PD/LFC advised that the contract had specified the right of the Government in imposing penalties on the contractor in the event of delay in delivery. Current litigation actions against the contractor were in connection with damages arising from the unexpected seabed conditions, while actions on other aspects causing the delay had yet to be taken pending completion of the works concerned. On the other hand, the contractor could not claim any compensation for inclement weather as this factor had already been allowed for in the specified contract duration.

4.Quoting the experience of construction of the Tsing Ma Bridge, some members expressed concern about the practicability of the Government Engineer in handling the resolution of claims and finalization of accounts within five months after completion of the outstanding works in April 1998. PD/LFC assured members that the proposed extension of the supernumerary post until September 1998 was considered adequate as some of the contractural claims had already commenced and the TKB project management team was working as a team in pursuing such claims. Outstanding issues after September 1998 could be taken up by the remaining officers in the team.

5.The item was voted on and endorsed.

EC(97-98)23 Proposed creation of a supernumerary post of Principal Executive Officer (D1) for two years with effect from 14 October 1997 in the Health and Welfare Bureau of the Government Secretariat to enable the secondment of an officer to the Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health as Executive Director

6.Members noted from the discussion paper that there had been a change of five Executive Directors of the Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health (COSH) in the past ten years. Concerned about the effect which this had on the continuity of COSH's work, they enquired about the effectiveness of the present arrangement and the possibility of creating a civil service post on a permanent basis to resolve the recruitment and retention difficulties and to ensure continuity.

7.The Principal Assistant Secretary for Health and Welfare (PAS/HW) advised that the Executive Directors were appointed through open recruitment on a two-year contract subject to further renewal upon completion of the contract. Of the five Executive Directors in question, one was offered renewal of contract but the incumbent declined, while fresh recruitments were considered appropriate in respect of the other cases. The Chairman of COSH added that in the present case, the option for recruitment remained open. The post of Executive Director post called for a diverse range of skills of both administrative efficiency and effective public health advocacy in tobacco control. While the requirement of the post holder was demanding, the Chairman of COSH advised there had been a marked improvement in the management of COSH in the past six months. COSH would benefit from continuing the secondment at the present stage.

8.As regards the possibility of creating a civil service post on a permanent basis, the Deputy Secretary for the Civil Service explained that there were different reasons for difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff in organizations such as COSH. These included for example limited promotion prospects and specialist knowledge required of the posts. The Administration's objective under such circumstances was to leave the options open for promotion from within the organizations and for open recruitment, with the fall back of seconding officers from the civil service on a supernumerary basis to fill vacancies in the short term. A decision on whether or not the post should come under the civil service establishment was a matter for the individual organizations in consultation with the relevant Policy Bureau. As COSH was undertaking a review of its staffing structure and administration system, it would be inappropriate for the Government to interfere at this stage.

9.On the scope of responsibilities of the Executive Director, a member expressed concern about the practicality for one officer to possess expertise in administration and publicity at the same time. She suggested delineation of the two aspects of work, with the Executive Director focusing on the administrative functions and delegating to a senior officer the work on publicity. PAS/HW responded that the member's view would be taken into account in the review of COSH's staffing structure.

10.The item was voted on and endorsed.

11.The Subcommittee was adjourned at 11:25 am.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
21 October 1997