LC Paper No. PWSC154/98-99
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref : CB1/F/2/2

Public Works Subcommittee of the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council

Minutes of the eighteenth meeting held at the Legislative Council Chamber on Wednesday, 2 June 1999, at 10:45 am

Members present :

Hon HO Sai-chu, JP (Chairman)
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP (Deputy Chairman)
Hon Kenneth TING Woo-shou, JP
Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, JP
Hon LEE Wing-tat
Hon Fred LI Wah-ming
Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
Hon CHAN Yuen-han
Hon CHAN Kam-lam
Hon Gary CHENG Kai-nam
Hon WONG Yung-kan
Hon LAU Kong-wah
Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, JP
Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing, JP
Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
Hon TAM Yiu-chung, JP

Member attending :

Prof Hon NG Ching-fai

Members absent :

Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, JP
Hon Cyd HO Sau-lan
Hon Albert HO Chun-yan
Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, JP
Hon James TO Kun-sun
Hon Ambrose CHEUNG Wing-sum, JP
Hon Christine LOH
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
Hon SIN Chung-kai
Hon Timothy FOK Tsun-ting, JP
Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JP

Public officers attending :

Mr James HERD
Deputy Secretary for the Treasury (3) (Acting)

Mr Gordon SIU, JP
Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands

Secretary for Works

Mr Rob LAW, JP
Director of Environmental Protection

Director of Drainage Services

Deputy Secretary for Works (Works Policy)

Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Environment)

Mr Raymond CHEUNG
Assistant Director for Drainage Services (Sewage Services)

Chief Engineer (Strategic Sewage Disposal Scheme), Drainage Services Department

Dr Malcolm BROOM
Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Water Quality and Policy Group)

Mr CHAN Pui-wah, JP
Director of Water Supplies

Director of Territory Development

Principal Assistant Secretary for Housing (Project Management)

Chief Engineer (Tin Shui Wai), Territory Development Department

Director of Architectural Services

Mr Philip CHAN
Principal Assistant Secretary for Security (E)

Mr WONG Doon-yee
Chief Superintendent of Police (former Commandant, Police Training School), Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF)

Mr WONG Pak-nin
Commandant, Police Training School

Chief Superintendent of Police (Planning and Development Branch), HKPF

Mr Patrick LI
Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (2)

Assistant Director of Education (Planning and Research)

Project Manager/1, Housing Department

Mrs Margaret CHAN
Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (9)

Principal Education Officer (Services), Education Department
Clerk in attendance:
Miss Polly YEUNG
Chief Assistant Secretary (1)3
Staff in attendance:
Ms Pauline NG
Assistant Secretary General 1

Ms Anita SIT
Senior Assistant Secretary (1)8

Resubmission - revision in scope/approved estimate of a project in Category A

Head 704 - Drainage

PWSC(1999-2000)39312DSStrategic Sewage Disposal Scheme stage I - construction supervision of the main works

Addressing concern on whether the outstanding works of the Strategic Sewage Disposal Scheme (SSDS) Stage 1 programme could be completed by the year 2000 as currently scheduled, the Secretary for Works (S for W) advised that having regard to the current progress, the Administration was quite confident that the outstanding works could be completed by the year 2000, though he could not provide a strict guarantee to members. The Deputy Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Environment) supplemented that there had been good progress as the completed portion of the sewage connection tunnels had increased from 19% in February 1999 to over 40% at present. He also informed members that the Administration had already undertaken to provide the LegCo Panel on Environmental Affairs with periodic reports on the progress of the outstanding works of SSDS Stage 1.

2. Referring to paragraph 11 of the supplementary information note PWSCI(1999-2000)4, Miss Emily LAU sought clarification on the immediate action the Administration would take upon conclusion of the arbitration over the sewage tunnel contracts. In reply, S for W said that if the arbitration proceedings concluded that the contractor had been involved in any deliberate non-compliance with the contract requirements, the Administration would decide on whether the two construction companies of the joint venture should be suspended, downgraded or removed from the relevant Approved Lists of contractors for Government projects. The level of sanction would depend on the results and findings of the arbitration. He further advised that the arbitration proceedings consisted of two stages. The liabilities of both sides would be ascertained at the first stage, while the claims for any damages would be dealt with at the second stage. He undertook to report to the relevant LegCo Panel(s) on the results of the arbitration in due course.Admin.

3. S for W advised that the six-month suspension the two construction companies received in April and May 1997 was imposed in accordance with the relevant technical notice of the Works Bureau (No. 13/96) issued to contractors on the Approved Lists. According to the notice, any contractor receiving three consecutive adverse performance reports in respect of a Government project might be suspended from the Approved Lists for six months. During the suspension period, a review on the suitability of the contractor for taking up further Government projects would be conducted. In the case of the sewage tunnel contracts, the six-month suspension was imposed after the original contractor had received three consecutive adverse reports during the project period. However, the suspension was lifted in late 1997 after review, having regard to the fact that the Government had re-entered the contracts and the contractor had filed a notice for reference to arbitration. The Administration considered it more equitable for the contractor's contentions on the impossibility of completing the contract works to be fully heard and determined in the arbitration before imposing any further serious regulatory action against the contractor. Miss Emily LAU further enquired on the action the Government would have taken had there been no arbitration proceedings. S for W declined to give a firm reply to what he considered a hypothetical question. However, he confirmed that in the view of the Administration, the contractor had failed to comply with the contract requirements.

4. In reply to Dr Raymond HO and Mr LAU Kong-wah's queries about the eligibility of the two construction companies for tendering Government contracts before the conclusion of the arbitration, S for W confirmed that the construction companies could tender for public works projects during this period. He however stressed that the Central Tender Board, in assessing tenders for Government projects, would take into account the past performance of bidding contractors. In response to Mr LAU's further query, S for W confirmed that if there were Government contracts which had been awarded to the contractor in question, these on-going projects would remain valid irrespective of the arbitration results.

5. Mr LEE Wing-tat considered that it might not be in the public interest to allow the two construction companies to tender for Government contracts during the litigation process which might take years to conclude. He also cautioned that the construction companies' eligibility for tendering for public works prior to the arbitration ruling might strengthen the companies' defence against the Government's claims.

6. Miss Emily LAU queried whether the Administration had critically reviewed the appropriateness of the arrangement to include the works for the six sewage connection tunnels under two contracts and the decision to award both contracts to the same contractor notwithstanding that one of the two companies forming the joint venture did not have any previous experience in public works projects in Hong Kong. In response, S for W advised that the contractor was selected in accordance with established tendering procedures, and the Administration would follow up by reviewing the tendering arrangements when the findings of the arbitration were known. The Chairman concurred that it would be more appropriate to look into the tendering arrangements upon conclusion of the arbitration proceedings.

7. Mr LEE Wing-tat said he considered those senior Government officials involved in the tendering, re-entering and re-letting of the sewage connection tunnels contracts should share some of the responsibilities for the project delays and the consequential financial losses should the Government subsequently lose in the litigation. The Administration responded that , it was premature and inappropriate to pre-judge the outcome of the arbitration. Mr LEE Wing-tat said that he would not support the present proposal.

8. In reply to Miss Emily LAU's enquiry about the cost reductions in other SSDS Stage I projects referred to in enclosure 5 to the discussion paper, the Assistant Director of Drainage Services (Sewage Services) (AD/DS(SS)) explained that the reductions were mainly attributed to the unused provision for contingencies under the respective projects. As regards the seemingly large cost reductions when compared with the approved project estimates (APEs), AD/DS(SS) and the Chief Engineer (SSDS) explained that the APEs only represented the approved expenditures to be met from the Capital Works Reserve Fund for the outstanding works of SDSS Stage 1 following the closure of the Sewage Services Trading Fund (SSTF) on 31 March 1998. The expenditure on these projects up to 31 March 1998 had been funded from the SSTF and the relevant information had been set out in enclosure 1 to the discussion paper. At the Chairman's request, the Administration agreed to provide, as soon as possible, additional information on the various cost reductions..Admin.

9. Referring to the information on the environmental consequences of the delay in completing the SSDS Stage 1 programme as set out in enclosure 7 to the discussion paper, Miss Emily LAU enquired whether the quantitative information on the additional pollution loading in the harbour during the delay period could be translated into tangible aspects directly related to the well-being of the public. In reply, the Director of Environmental Protection (DEP) advised that the water pollution problem in the harbour mainly manifested in the form of individuals contracting minor respiratory infections while engaged in secondary contacts with the water, such as sailing and boating. As these people would be difficult to trace, it was not possible to tie the incidents of infection to the additional pollution loading in the harbour. Likewise, it would be difficult to quantify the adverse effects of the additional pollution loading on the aesthetic aspects of the harbour in monetary terms.

10. Mr Edward HO pointed out that the SSDS Stage 1 projects had been discussed at length at the joint meetings of the Panel on Environment Affairs and the Panel on Planning, Lands and Works on 5 February and 4 May 1999. At these meetings, the Administration had, with audio visual aids, briefed members in detail on the work progress and the problems encountered, and exchanged views extensively with members. In order to avoid repetitive discussion on similar issues both at the Panels and at this Subcommittee, he urged members to make the best use of Panel meetings to raise issues of policy concerns and seek background information from the Administration on major public works proposals before they were dealt with by this Subcommittee.

11. The item was put to vote. Nine members voted for the item and three voted against. None abstained :

    Mr Kenneth TING Woo-shouMr Edward HO Sing-tin
    Dr Raymond HO Chung-tai Mr CHAN Kam-lam
    Mr Gary CHENG Kai-nam Mr WONG Yung-kan
    Mr LAU Kong-wah Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee
    Mr TAM Yiu-chung
    (9 members)

    Mr LEE Wing-tat
    Miss Emily LAU Wai-hing
    Mr Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
    (3 members)

    12. The item was endorsed by the Subcommittee.

    13. Miss Emily LAU requested that this item be voted on separately from other public works proposals at the relevant Finance Committee meeting.

    New projects - upgrading of projects to Category A

    Head 704 - Drainage

    PWSC(1999-2000)31 59CD West Kowloon drainage improvement, stages 2 and 3

    14. Noting from the discussion paper that "the Panel on Planning, Lands and Works supported the proposed West Kowloon drainage improvement works", Mr Edward HO, Chairman of the Panel, considered the statement could be misleading as the Panel had not taken a position nor arrived at a collective view on the proposal. He considered it more appropriate to simply state that the Panel had not expressed objection to the proposal.

    15. On the reasons for implementing this particular drainage improvement project in three stages rather than in one single phase, the Director of Drainage Services (DDS) advised that given its scale and complexity, phased implementation of the project was necessary to avoid causing undue traffic disruptions in the area and to enable effective deployment of resources.

    16. Addressing Mr LEE Wing-tat's concern about the scale of the drainage upgrading works which were disruptive to road traffic, DDS advised that the Administration, in conjunction with the project consultants, had reviewed the overall drainage improvement strategy for the area with a view to limiting the extent of the drainage upgrading works. Under the revised strategy, the overall length of drains to be constructed under stages 2 and 3 of the project had been reduced from 94 kilometres to 48 kilometres. This reduction was enabled by the construction of the proposed Tai Hang Tung Flood Storage Scheme and the Kai Tak Transfer Scheme which together could reduce the loading of the stormwater drains for the area during heavy rainstorms by about 50%. He also advised that the works programme had been drawn up very carefully in conjunction with the Transport Department and the Police with a view to minimizing traffic disruption. Apart from carrying out the works in short sections to avoid undue traffic disruption, some works would be scheduled for non-peak hours with the road surface temporarily covered so that normal traffic flows could resume during peak hours. Moreover, for certain critical road sections and junctions with heavy road traffic, the pipe jacking method instead of the normal trench dredging method would be used. The former method would not require trench digging on the road surface and thus would minimize disruption to traffic flows.

    17. In reply to Miss Emily LAU, DDS advised that the cost for pipe jacking would be about four times the construction cost of the trench dredging method. In deciding which construction method should be used, a detailed cost-benefit analysis would be made, taking into account the construction cost and the costs to the community associated with traffic disruptions and other nuisances caused to the public. DDS confirmed that the additional construction cost required for using the pipe jacking method had been incorporated into the estimates of the present proposal. At Miss LAU's request, he agreed to provide information on the additional cost specifically attributed to the use of this method and to indicate on a map the road sections/junctions at which the pipe jacking method would be used.Admin.

    18. Addressing Mrs Miriam LAU's concern on whether carrying out the works in short sections would slow down the overall progress of the project, DDS advised that while the contractor concerned would be allowed to open only a short section of any one road at any one time, the contractor would be required to implement works at different locations concurrently up to his full capacity.

    19. On the capacity and life span of the stormwater drainage system for the West Kowloon area after the proposed improvements, DDS confirmed that upon completion of the proposed works, the system could sustain a one-in-50-year rainfall, i.e. a rainfall of an intensity of about 150mm per hour. As the developments in the West Kowloon area were already at an advanced stage, future developments and changes in land use in the area would be limited and thus would be unlikely to generate any substantial increase in surface run-offs overloading the upgraded stormwater drainage system.

    20. As to whether arrangements had been/would be made to minimize road openings by incorporating some of the proposed drainage works into other Government works which also involved road excavation works in the same area, DDS advised that a mechanism was in place in the Drainage Services Department and among the works group of departments to co-ordinate works involving road openings. For the project in question, the stage 1 works had been carried out in conjunction with the sewerage improvement works for the same area, while part of the drainage works under the present proposal would be entrusted to the Kowloon Canton Railway Corporation in conjunction with the West Rail project.

    21. With regard to the problem of blockage of water inlets due to littering, DDS advised that on the technical side, more water inlets would be built and overflow weirs would be constructed to divert surface overflow to other inlets. On public education, the Drainage Services Department informed members that starting from September this year, an outreach programme would be launched on the need to keep stormwater and sewage drains clear of waste.

    22. As regards illegal connections of sewage drains to stormwater drains by restaurants and other food outlets , DDS advised that action to rectify such connections in West Kowloon was being undertaken separately under the West Kowloon Sewage Master Plan. DEP added that discharging sewage into stormwater drains was an offence under the Water Pollution Control Ordinance which was being actively enforced by the Environmental Protection Department.

    23. The item was voted on and endorsed.

    Head 709 - Waterworks

    PWSC(1999-2000)33240WFReplacement of mechanical and electrical equipment and improvement of operation facilities in Sandy Bay pumping station

    24. On the estimated increase of 0.03% in water charges arising from the project, the Director of Water Supplies (DWS) advised that the anticipated increase was mainly attributed to the projected increase in recurrent expenditure arising from operating the proposed new facilities and the future depreciation costs of the facilities. As regards the estimated annual saving of $660,000 generated by the project, DWS explained that this was the projected average annual saving over a 25-year period resulting from higher efficiency, lower electricity consumption, and lower maintenance and repair costs of the proposed new facilities.

    25. The item was voted on and endorsed.

    Head 711 - Housing

    PWSC(1999-2000)35561CLTin Shui Wai further development - remaining engineering infrastructure and site formation works

    26. The Director of Territory Development (DTD) confirmed that the estimated 62 500 housing units to be provided under the Tin Shui Wai further development project would include both public and private housing developments. Under the existing policy, the Government would provide the basic infrastructure facilities for both types of development.

    27. The item was voted on and endorsed.

    PWSC(1999-2000)3482WCFresh and flushing water reticulation systems for Tin Shui Wai Reserve Zone - remaining works

    28. The item was voted on and endorsed.

    Head 703 - Buildings

    PWSC(1999-2000)36229LPProvision of a tactical training complex at the Police Training School

    29. With the aid of visual aid equipment, the Chief Superintendent of Police (former Commandant, Police Training School) (former C/PTS) briefed members on the content of firearms and tactical training for Police officers, the existing facilities for the training and the concept and design for the proposed tactical training complex.

    30. The Chairman informed members that three members of this Subcommittee, including himself, had attended a site visit at the Police Training School in Wong Chuk Hang on 20 April 1999. Based on his observations, he concurred that the existing in-door tactical training facility converted from two existing squash courts was far too small and short of purpose-built ancillary facilities. Members also noted that three other Members had attended an earlier site visit arranged for the Security Panel in January 1999. On the reason for arranging the site visits, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Security (E) (PAS/S(E)) explained that for this project, an on-site observation of the actual firearm and tactical training process and the existing training facilities had been arranged to enable Members to gain first-hand understanding of the need for the proposed tactical training complex. As a majority of the members of this Subcommittee could not attend the visits, a presentation on the project was therefore made at this meeting to supplement the discussion paper.

    31. Noting the favourable track record of Police Open Fire (POF) Cases between 1990 to 1998 set out in paragraph 4(b) of the discussion paper, Miss Emily LAU questioned whether the proposed tactical training complex was justified in strengthening training in this aspect. In response, PAS/S(E) said that proper and adequate firearm and tactical training was necessary to ensure the competency of Police Officers in handling cases involving POF or culprits opening fire. These situations might happen any time during their normal beat duties and front-line operations and had important implications on public safety. Given the importance of the training, and recognizing the fact that a proper and permanent tactical training facility for Police officers was lacking at present, the Administration considered it necessary to construct a purpose-built tactical training complex to facilitate proper tactical training. The former C/PTS added that the primary objective of firearms and tactical training was not to encourage Police Officers to use firearms, but to enable them to better control crime situations without using weapons unnecessarily. He remarked that while a number of factors were at play in determining the frequency of POF Cases, proper and adequate tactical training was one critical factor. He also confirmed that the proposed tactical training complex was to facilitate basic and essential tactical training for all Police Officers, rather than a specific measure to address an anticipated worsening of crime situations. As regards the up-to-date figures on POF and Culprits Open Fire Cases, the former C/PTS advised that only one POF case had occurred in 1999 so far. For the first quarter of 1999, there were two cases of criminals using firearms, and 18 cases of criminals using firearm-like weapons.

    32. In reply to Miss Emily LAU's enquiry about a similar proposal submitted to this Subcommittee two years ago but withdrawn after deliberation, PAS/S(E) and the Chief Superintendent of Police (Planning and Development Branch) advised that the previous proposal submitted in 1997 was in respect of an urban tactical training centre which was of a much bigger scale. On the contrary, the present proposal was aimed at providing basic and essential training for handling crime situations that might be encountered by front-line Police Officers. They confirmed that the Administration had no intention to pursue the previous proposal in the foreseeable future.

    33. Mr Edward HO said that having observed the existing tactical facility at the site visit, he appreciated the need for the proposed training complex and would support the present proposal.

    34. The item was voted on and endorsed. Miss Emily LAU requested that her reservation on the proposal be recorded.

    PWSC(1999-2000)37262EPA 24-classroom primary school in public housing estate, Aldrich Bay, phase 4

    35. In reply to Miss Emily LAU's enquiry about the facility provision in "the assembly hall cum games area" mentioned in paragraph 3(j) of the discussion paper, the Deputy Director of Architectural Services (DDArchs) and the Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (2) (PAS/EM(2)) confirmed that the assembly hall could be used as a venue for a range of sport activities, such as badminton and table tennis games. They undertook to provide more detailed information on the range of games and activities that could be accommodated at the assembly hall in future proposals for new schools. With reference to the "assembly hall cum gymnasium" to be provided in a special school under a previous PWSC proposal, the Assistant Director of Education (Planning and Research) confirmed that the size and facilities of the assembly halls of special schools were similar to those of standard schools, except that the former schools would be equipped with special facilities such as hand rails and ramps for disabled students.Admin.

    36. Noting that of the total shortfall of 73 schools, only five had been completed and 41 had been upgraded to Category A, Miss Emily LAU expressed concern about whether sufficient new primary schools could be completed in time to meet the shortfall and to help achieve the policy target of whole-day primary schooling by the school year 2002/03. In response, PAS/EM(2) said that the Administration was confident about completing the remaining new schools before the commencement of the school year 2002/03. He advised that a new primary school normally took 18 months to build, and it was the Administration's plan to submit all proposals on the remaining 26 schools to this Subcommittee and the Finance Committee by mid-2000. This project had been submitted earlier in order to tie in with the construction schedule of the associated housing development.

    37. The item was voted on and endorsed.

    New commitments/Changes in commitments for subvented projects

    Head 708 - Capital Subventions and Major Systems and Equipment

    PWSC(1999-2000)3825ECProvision of air-conditioning in special schools for physically and severely mentally handicapped children

    38. In reply to Dr Raymond HO's enquiry, the Principal Education Officer (Services), Education Department advised that among the 17 special schools in question, seven were for physically handicapped and the remaining 10 for severely mentally handicapped. All the 17 special schools had been included under the present proposal as the policy on the provision of air-conditioning applied equally to all of them.

    39. On the reason for selecting the split-type air-conditioners with ancillary stand-alone fresh air pre-treatment units, DDArchS advised that these units would enable a more substantial intake of fresh air than the usual window air-conditioners and - older models of split-type air conditioners. This type of air-conditioners had also been provided in other schools eligible for the provision of air-conditioning.

    40. In reply to Mr LI Wah-ming's enquiry about the provision of air-conditioning in the boarding areas of the 11 special schools which provided boarding services, the Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (9) (PAS/EM(9)) advised that under the policy promulgated in the 1998 Policy Address, the Government would provide air-conditioning in all classrooms and special rooms of special schools for the physically handicapped and the severely mentally handicapped. She confirmed that the existing policy did not cover the provision of air-conditioning in the boarding areas of such schools. However, as mentioned in the paper, four of the 11 schools providing boarding services had already installed air-conditioners in the boarding areas using their own resources, while private donations had been secured for the same purpose for the remaining seven schools with the assistance of the LegCo Panel on Education's Subcommittee on Facilities in Special Schools for Physically Handicapped Children (Subcommittee on FSSPHC) set up in November 1998. As regards electricity charges for the air-conditioning in the boarding areas, she advised that at a meeting of the Subcommittee on FSSPHC, parent representatives had indicated willingness to bear a reasonable share of the electricity charges Meanwhile, the Administration was conducting a survey among the other parents on the matter.

    41. On whether the Administration would further consider the provision of air-conditioning in the boarding areas as urged by Mr Fred LI, PAS/EM(9) pointed out that such a provision would have wider policy and financial implications, as it might have to be equitably extended to the residential services for the physically and the severely mentally handicapped provided by the Social Welfare Department or subvented organizations. As such, she said that further consideration at the policy level would be required.

    42. Miss Emily LAU queried the rationale of not providing air-conditioning in the boarding areas and enquired about the assistance provided by the Subcommittee on FSSPHC in securing private donations for the installation of air-conditioners in the boarding areas of seven special schools. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong, Chairman of the Subcommittee on FSSPHC, said that as the Administration had not acceded to the Subcommittee's request, the Subcommittee had turned to the two power companies which subsequently agreed to sponsor the installation of air-conditioners. They however declined to waive the associated electricity charges. Sharing Miss Emily LAU's concern about the problems suffered by the physically handicapped and the severely mentally handicapped children in hot and humid weather, Mr CHEUNG expressed regret for the Administration's refusal to provide air-conditioning in the boarding areas of the special schools.

    43. Noting members' concerns, Miss CHAN Yuen-han and the Chairman (being the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Welfare Services Panel respectively) concurred that the issue should be further pursued by the Panels on Education and Welfare Services.x x

    44. The item was voted on and endorsed.

    Any Other Business

    45. The Chairman informed members that Miss Margaret NG had notified him in writing that she would withdraw from this Subcommittee with effect from 31 May 1999.

    46. The Subcommittee was adjourned at 12:45 pm.

    Legislative Council Secretariat
    23 June 1999