on 4 December 1998
ITEM FOR FINANCE COMMITTEE
HEAD 142 - GOVERNMENT SECRETARIAT: OFFICES OF THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR ADMINISTRATION AND THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY
Subhead 111 Hire of services and professional fees
Members are invited to approve supplementary provision of $20,335,000 under Head 142 Government Secretariat: Offices of the Chief Secretary for Administration and the Financial Secretary Subhead 111 Hire of services and professional fees.
The approved provision of $51,757,000 under Head 142 Government Secretariat: Offices of the Chief Secretary for Administration and the Financial Secretary Subhead 111 Hire of services and professional fees is insufficient to meet expenditure in 1998-99 arising from the work of the Commission of Inquiry on the New Airport.
2. We propose supplementary provision of $20,335,000 under this Subhead.
3. The approved provision of $51,757,000 under Subhead 111 Hire of services and professional fees in 1998-99 is for the hiring of services from the Airport Authority to operate the Government VIP Lounge at the new Hong Kong International Airport at Chek Lap Kok, witness fees and legal fees for the Administrative Appeals Board and for the Municipal Services Appeals Boards and the payment of fees for miscellaneous professional and administrative support services that are related to the day-to-day running of the various offices and units1 accounted for under this Head of Expenditure. In the light of expenditure todate and commitments for the remainder of the financial year, we estimate that expenditure under this Subhead for the whole of the 1998-99 financial year will exceed the approved provision by $20,335,000, calculated as follows -
|Unbudgeted expenses 2|
|(a) Actual expenditure and commitment up to mid November 1998
||(b) Estimated expenditure for the remainder of the 1998-99 financial year
|(c) Estimated expenditure for 1998-99 [(a) + (b)]
||(d) Approved provision for 1998-99
|(e) Variance [(c) - (d)]
4. The estimated additional expenditure of $20,335,000 in 1998-99 is due to the expenses associated with the Commission of Inquiry on the New Airport which we have not allowed for under this Head of Expenditure in the 1998-99 Estimates. We estimate that the Commission will require a total of $26,335,000 to meet expenses for the hiring of services and professional fees mainly for the conduct of the inquiry, a breakdown of which is as follows -
|(a) Legal fees -
|(c) Audio recording services
|(d) Production of transcript
|(e) Translation of report and interpretation service
5. As regards paragraph 4(a), the Commissions of Inquiry Ordinance (Cap. 86) provides that the Commission may appoint barristers and solicitors to act for the Commission. We estimate that the Commission will incur costs of $22,545,000 for engaging three barristers as counsel and a solicitors' firm (which provides six to ten solicitors to work for the duration of the inquiry) on a time charge basis, capped by a daily rate. Counsel for the Commission assist the Commission in identifying, gathering and sorting out evidence; identifying witnesses; examining, cross-examining and re-examining witnesses in the public hearings and advising the Commission on the law and procedures. Solicitors engaged by the Commission have to provide legal support to the Commission, including screening of documents to determine claims of confidentiality and identify relevant material.
6. As regards paragraph 4(b), we estimate that the Commission will require a sum of $3,470,000 for the engagement of experts to write expert reports, to serve as expert witnesses to provide expert advice and be subject to the cross-examination of other parties and to consult experts of other parties on their expert opinions. The Commission has engaged three individual experts and two other experts from a consultants' firm on a time charge basis, capped by a daily rate.
7. As regards paragraph 4(c), the Commission conducts public hearings in accordance with the rules of judicial proceedings in a hearing room without the fittings normally available in a court room. The Commission has therefore engaged an outside contractor to perform audio recording service for the hearings. We estimate that the Commission will require $120,000 for about 60 days of hearing.
8. As regards paragraph 4(d), the Commission does not normally require the production of transcripts for the hearings. Transcripts of the proceedings would only be required for hearing days on which oral evidence appears to be controversial. We estimate that the Commission will require $50,000 for meeting the expenses.
9. As regards paragraph 4(e), we estimate that the Commission will need $150,000 for hiring interpreters for witnesses who give evidence in a language other than English or Chinese and translation of the Commission's report into Chinese.
10. Since we are able to identify savings of $6,000,000 under Subhead 111 Hire of services and professional fees to cover part of the Commission's expenses, we require additional provision of $20,335,000 to meet the shortfall under this Subhead.
11. If Members approve the proposal, we shall offset the supplementary provision of $20,335,000 by deleting an equivalent amount under Head 106 Miscellaneous Services Subhead 251 Additional commitments.
12. On 21 July 1998, the Chief Executive in Council appointed the Commission of Inquiry on the New Airport under the Commissions of Inquiry Ordinance (Cap. 86) to inquire into the operation of the new airport and the problems encountered since its opening on 6 July 1998. The Commission is expected to conclude the hearings by the end of December 1998 and then submit a report of findings and conclusions to the Chief Executive by around the end of January 1999.
13. Section 14 of the Commissions of Inquiry Ordinance provides that the cost of an inquiry shall be a charge on the general revenue.
Offices of the Chief Secretary for Administration and the Financial Secretary
1. These include the Chief Secretary for Administration's Office, the Financial Secretary's Office, the Administration Wing, the Efficiency Unit, the Central Policy Unit, the Government Records Service Division, the Protocol Division, the Business and Services Promotion Unit and the Executive Council Secretariat.
2. These refer to additional requirements associated with the Commission of Inquiry on the New Airport.