Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Home Affairs
Meeting on 16 February 1998
Division of Work for Projects under
the Rural Planning and Improvement Strategy (RPIS)
On 23 October 1997, Provisional Legislative Council (PLC) members met with members of the Tuen Mun Provisional District Board (TMPDB). The TMPDB members noted that, under the present division of work, Territory Development Department (TDD) is responsible for RPIS projects costing $15 million or more, while projects below this amount are carried out by Home Affairs Department (HAD). As TMPDB members were under the impression that RPIS projects undertaken by TDD were not carried out expeditiously, they suggested raising the current limit of $15 million for projects undertaken by the HAD so that more projects could be carried out expeditously to meet the needs of the local communities.
Division of Work for Projects under the RPIS
2. The RPIS is divided into two categories - the RPIS major works programme and the RPIS minor works programme. Under the major works programme, projects are implemented to provide regional infrastructure such as main drainage channels and major trunk roads, whilst under the minor works programme projects costing less than $15 million each are implemented for improvement works in localised areas.
3. Both the major and minor works programmes were originally administered by TDD. To improve the progress of the minor works programme and capitalize on HAD's liaison network and close ties with rural communities, HAD took over the responsibility for the RPIS minor works programme in November 1994. The major works programme remains the responsibility of TDD.
Current Situation of RPIS Minor Works Programme
4. Since taking over the RPIS minor works programme in November 1994, we have endeavoured to identify the needs of the rural communities for local improvement works. We have closely involved local leaders and the local communities to assist HAD to promptly implement projects under this programme. Before the takeover, a total of some $47 million had been spent. We have made significant progress and expedited the programme's implementation. The value of projects completed and under construction has now reached a cumulative total of about $800 million. Local communities have shown great appreciation for the significant improvement in the overall progress achieved and have expressed satisfaction with the efforts made by HAD in the past three years. In the light of these achievements, the TMPDB suggested that the $15 million funding ceiling for HAD's projects should be increased so that more projects could be carried out by HAD.
5. We appreciate the faith put in us by the TMPDB members and are well aware of the desire of the local communities for expeditious delivery of those improvement works not only in Tuen Mun, but throughout the New Territories. HAD, however, has only a small establishment of seven engineering professionals and other supporting technical staff. This establishment is tasked with the responsibility to complete the targetted $1.6 billion RPIS minor works programme within a very tight schedule. Notwithstanding the hard work and efficiency of the team, increasing the $15 million funding ceiling at this late stage of the programme would exceed the capacity of the team and would have an adverse impact on the delivery of the improvement projects in the current programme.
6. By comparison, TDD has a much larger establishment of engineering staff and should have adequate supporting staff as well as other resources to undertake the workload associated with the major works programme. As major projects are closely linked, in both planning and construction, to territorial strategy and development, relevant studies and associated projects are either implemented by or involve the active participation of TDD. On balance and taking into consideration both staff resources and the level of technical expertise required for major RPIS projects, HAD considers that the $15 million project limit would be appropriate and that it would be more efficient for TDD to continue to administer the RPIS major works projects above the $15 million limit.
7. We are always mindful of the Government's responsibility to implement improvement works under the RPIS major and minor works programme, and we stand ready to offer assistance to TDD in consultation and liaison with local communities to resolve any problems and expedite early implementation of the major works. With Government's concerted efforts, we believe that these improvement works can be promptly implemented to meet the needs of local communities.
Home Affairs Department