LC Paper No. PWSC14/98-99
Ref : CB1/F/2/2
Public Works Subcommittee of the Finance Committee
of the Legislative Council
Minutes of the third meeting
Members present :
held at the Legislative Council Chamber
on Friday, 4 September 1998, at 10:00 am
Hon HO Sai-chu, JP (Chairman)
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP (Deputy Chairman)
Hon Kenneth TING Woo-shou, JP
Hon Cyd HO Sau-lan
Hon Edward HO Sing-tin, JP
Prof Hon NG Ching-fai
Hon Margaret NG
Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
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 SZETO Wah
Members absent :
Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, JP
Hon Albert HO Chun-yan
Hon LEE Wing-tat
Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, JP
Hon Fred LI Wah-ming
Hon James TO Kun-sun
Hon Ambrose CHEUNG Wing-sum, JP
Hon Christine LOH
Hon CHAN Yuen-han
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
Hon SIN Chung-kai
Hon Timothy FOK Tsun-ting, JP
Hon TAM Yiu-chung, JP
Public officers attending :
Clerk in attendance:
- Miss Emma LAU
- Deputy Secretary for the Treasury (3)
- Mr Patrick LAU, JP
- Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Acting)
- Mr S S LEE, JP
- Secretary for Works (Acting)
- Mr Rob LAW, JP
- Director of Environmental Protection
- Mr James HERD
- Principal Assistant Secretary for the Treasury (Works)
- Mr Bernard LAM, JP
- Director of Civil Engineering
- Miss Dora FU
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Economic Services (C)
- Mr M K CHEUNG
- Assistant Director (Fisheries), Agriculture and Fisheries Department
- Mr LAU Ching Kwong, JP
- Director of Highways (Acting)
- Ms Shirley LAM
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport (5)
- Mrs Joanna KWOK
- Chief Engineer/Kowloon, Transport Department
- Mr LO Yiu Ching, JP
- Director of Territory Development (Acting)
- Mr H W TIN
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Housing (Project Management)
- Mr K K SIN
- Chief Engineer/New Territories East, Transport Department
- Miss Angelina FUNG
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (1)
- Mr Jack CHAN
- Deputy Secretary-General (1), University Grants Committee
- Mr M F KO
- Chief Technical Advisor/Subvented Projects, Architectural Services Department
Staff in attendance:
- Miss Polly YEUNG
- Chief Assistant Secretary (1)3
PUBLIC WORKS PROGRAMME
- Ms Pauline NG
- Assistant Secretary General 1
- Ms Sarah YUEN
- Senior Assistant Secretary (1)4
Upgrading of projects to Category A
HEAD 705 - CIVIL ENGINEERING
PWSC(98-99)3 405CL Pak Shek Kok reclamation for dumping, stage 3
Members expressed concern on the state of the marine environment in Tolo Harbour. They questioned whether the proposed reclamation works at Pak Shek Kok would have further adverse impact on the water quality of Tolo Harbour. A member pointed out that the marine environment in Tolo Harbour had deteriorated rapidly in recent years and that the serious depletion of fisheries resources was evident during a site visit on 21 July 1998 undertaken by himself and representatives of the Environmental Protection Department (EPD), Civil Engineering Department (CED) and the Agriculture and Fisheries Department (AFD). Whilst he did not object to the proposed reclamation project, he urged the Administration to reduce the adverse impact of the reclamation works by constructing and maintaining a seawall of sufficient length ahead of the active reclamation works.
2. In response, the Director of Civil Engineering (DCE) advised that according to pre-project tests, a seawall of not less than 100 metres longconstructed ahead of active reclamation work could effectively control the impact of the reclamation works on the water quality in the vicinity of the works site. This had been done accordingly and the monitoring results obtained so far indicated no significant impact on the water quality and sediment quality in the vicinity. The Director of Environmental Protection (DEP) advised that the reclamation works had only caused local and infrequent deterioration in water quality in the immediate vicinity of the works site as already envisaged in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study conducted before commencement of the reclamation works. DEP added that the Tolo Harbour area had been subject to severe pollution for a few decades, but as a result of the concerted effort by relevant Government departments over the past ten years, there were signs of improvement in the water quality and sediment quality. It would require further time and efforts to make significant improvement to the marine environment of the area. The Assistant Director of Agriculture and Fisheries (Fisheries) informed members that a monitoring programme on the fisheries resources in Tolo Harbour had been included in the present project and that the monitoring results would provide up-to-date data on the marine life of the area.
3. A member expressed concern about possible noise nuisance arising from the breaking down of large pieces of construction waste at the reclamation site for dumping. In reply, the DCE advised that construction waste would not be allowed to be transported into the reclamation site if the waste did not satisfy the prescribed conditions for dumping. Hence, there was no question of noise caused by the breaking down or treatment of construction waste taking place at the reclamation site.
4. Referring to the estimated engineering consultant's fees of $21.6 million for providing technical site staff, a member enquired about the job nature of the site staff in question, and whether the technical knowledge and skills required were available within the Government. DCE advised that the site staff would be responsible for supervising the works on site. The degree of expertise and specialist knowledge required was not particularly high but CED did not have the required in-house resources to provide the staffing support and it was therefore necessary for the consultant to provide such support. He added that the estimated site staff cost, which included the consultant's overheads and profits in providing the staffing support, was arrived at by applying a multiplier factor of 2.1 to the full remuneration value for officers of a comparable rank in the civil service to cover staff costs and other overheads incurred by the consultant.
5. The item was voted on and endorsed.
HEAD 706 - HIGHWAYS
||Pedestrian subway at junction of Austin Road/Canton Road
6. Referring to the objections to the project after its gazettal, members noted that all four objections were related to the shop premises at Nos. 308A, 310 and 310A of Canton Road. One objector was a tenant and the other three were owners. Members also noted that the case had been referred to the Complaints Division of the LegCo Secretariat and a case conference to study the matter had been held. The Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport (5) (PAS/T(5)) reported that the objectors were mainly concerned about the design of the subway entrance and the noise nuisance during construction. To address their concerns, the Administration had adopted a new design for the subway entrance. A translucent plastic cover and metal columns would be adopted in the latest design so as to reduce the visual obstruction of the shops from a distance. As regards the noise impact during construction, the Administration had assured the objectors that no blasting would be carried out and they would be provided with details of the construction programme in advance. They had also been introduced to the responsible site supervision officer whom they could contact during the period of construction for purpose of making enquiries or lodging complaints. PAS/T(5) said that the objectors were satisfied with these arrangements.
7. As regards the objectors' rights to claim compensation for the closure of the part of the slip road of Canton Road in front of their shop, PAS/T(5) advised that under the Roads (Works, Use and Compensation) Ordinance, any person who believed that he/she was adversely affected by the road closure had the right to claim compensation. Strictly speaking, claims could be made immediately after the Government had issued the relevant road closure order. However, it was necessary for the affected party to substantiate his/her losses and to state in the claim as to how the amount under the claim was arrived at. Hence, PAS/T(5) said that it might be more practical to lodge the claim at a later date when the extent of any adverse effects became more ascertainable. In the present case, the objectors had made a claim several months in advance of the road closure order being issued. This had been rejected by the Lands Department on the ground that the relevant road closure order had yet to be issued. Subject to the approval of this proposal by the Finance Committee, PAS/T(5) added that the relevant order would be issued in November this year and the works were expected to commence in December. Since the objectors seemed confused over their rights to claim compensation, members urged that the relevant Government department(s) should explain to the affected parties in clear terms their statutory rights and obligations so as to avoid misunderstanding.
8. With regard to the problem of access to the objectors' shops during the proposed works, PAS(T)5 advised that boarding and alighting of visitors destined for the shops could take place in the slip road of Canton Road near the junction with Bowring Street during and after the construction of the pedestrian subway. The inconvenience caused would be very small. She also confirmed that during and after the construction of the subway, traffic from the slip road of Canton Road toward the main Canton Road would not be affected, except that the road junction would be re-located slightly more to the west.
9. The item was voted on and endorsed.
PWSC(98-99)8 580TH Tsing Yi North Coastal Road
10. On the justifications for the project, some members sought the Administration's assurance on the validity of its forecasts that by 2001, there was still a need for the Tsing Yi North Coastal Road (TYNCR) despite the apparent under-utilization of the Airport Railway and the Tsing Ma Bridge at present (an actual figure of 40 000 users as against the original forecast of 70 000 users had been quoted in the case of the Tsing Ma Bridge). Some members, however, agreed with the Administration that the TYNCR was necessary in anticipation of the traffic volume expected to grow with the gradual completion of Tung Chung and Tai Ho New Town developments. In reply to members' enquiries, the Secretary for Works (S for W) reported that the development of Tung Chung and Tai Ho would be implemented in four phases. Phase one, which was established as a support base for the new airport, had already been completed. Meanwhile, a study was under way to examine the feasibility of increasing the population in Tung Chung and Tai Ho from 210 000 to 320 000 by 2011. If the outcome of the study was affirmative, there would be a need for a better road network.
11. On the Government's plans to monitor the effectiveness of the proposed noise barriers along the TYNCR and introduce other mitigating measures if necessary, DEP assured members that the present technique employed in predicting the mitigating effect of noise barriers, which was being used in many overseas countries, was highly accurate. He advised that it was not necessary to conduct routine follow-up checks. DEP supplemented that in many situations, the noises affecting people did not originate only from the new road but also from existing roads and it was not possible to differentiate their sources. He further informed members that when the issue was discussed at a meeting of the PLC Panel on Environmental Affairs, it was agreed that where appropriate, the Administration would conduct follow-up measurements to ensure the continued accuracy of the prediction technique.
|12. Noting that the TYNCR was expected to be ready for use in May 2002, members questioned the rationale for deferring payment of some 20% of the total expenditure to the years 2003-04 and 2004-05. They opined that all payments should preferably be settled within one year of project completion. While confirming that a part of such deferred payments was retention money to be settled after a 12-month defects liability period, the Director of Highways (DHy) explained that payments scheduled for 2003-04 and 2004-05 were mainly contingency payments and the related inflation allowance. S for W added that due to the difficulty in ascertaining when such expenditure would be required some departments phased the contingency and inflation allowance evenly throughout the entire project period. Some departments however adopted a different approach and end loaded the cash flows with the provisions for contingencies being retained till after the completion of the project. In this connection, members stressed the need for consistency and suggested that the former practice was a better approach as funds would have been earmarked for the year in question to meet contingency needs. A member also pointed out that if the projected expenditure for contingencies was deferred until the completion stage or later , this would unnecessarily inflate the MOD estimates as a higher inflation adjustment factor was used. The Deputy Secretary for the Treasury (3) (DS/Tsy(3)) noted members' suggestions and undertook to liaise with the relevant bureaux and departments to see if some general guidelines could be worked out to ensure consistency in the future presentation of estimated project expenditures.
13. In reply to a member, DS/Tsy(3) advised that the Government's forecasts of trend labour and construction prices, on which the money-of-the-day estimate was derived, were adjusted at the beginning of every year to reflect as closely as practicable the latest situation. She said that the trend had been generally lower in the past few years.
14. The item was voted on and endorsed.
HEAD 707 - NEW TOWNS AND URBAN AREA DEVELOPMENT
PWSC(98-99)4 437CL Roadworks in Aldrich Bay reclamation area
15. The item was voted on and endorsed.
HEAD 711 - HOUSING
PWSC(98-99)6 643TH Trunk Road T7 in Ma On Shan
16. While acknowledging the need for the proposed trunk road, members were concerned that its presence might expose residents in nearby Lee On Estate and Kam Ying Court to excessive traffic noise. In response, the Director of Territory Development (DTD) assured members that the Administration would provide noise barriers of appropriate sizes and materials at proper locations along the road as a mitigation measure.
17. In view of the special underground conditions at Ma On Shan, some members urged that the proposed site investigation works should include the soil exploration of land adjoining the project site to allow for future road widening. They were also concerned about the availability of alternative sites if the relevant geotechnical study found the proposed routing of the trunk road unsuitable. In reply, DTD explained that initial site investigations had already been conducted before the proposed routing was drawn up and that there should not be any major routing changes. The detailed site investigations for which funding was presently being sought would facilitate more detailed and economical design of the trunk road as it would be built partly on viaducts, partly pass through tunnels and partly built on slopes. DTD advised that when widening of the trunk road was considered in future, reference would be made to the results of these site investigations.
18. On whether the trunk road would increase the already congested traffic flow to Sha Tin, DTD confirmed that the proposed road was mainly designed to provide a by-pass to accommodate through traffic between Sha Tin and Sai Sha/northern part of Ma On Shan to help relieve traffic congestion in Ma On Shan Town Centre. The traffic flow so diverted to Sha Tin would have to be dealt with in the context of other relevant road network projects.
19. Addressing a member's concern about the impact on the surrounding landscape, DEP advised that pursuant to the recommendations of the EIA conducted earlier on, some 6.5 hectares of trees would be planted along the road and slopes to compensate for the loss of about five hectares of woodland resulting from the construction of the trunk road.
20. Noting that the trunk road would not be completed until June 2003 and that a significant volume of traffic passing through Ma On Shan would be generated by the large residential developments at Sai Sha and Cheung Muk Tau, members were keen to ensure that appropriate interim improvement measures would be in place. In response, DTD highlighted the following local improvement measures to be implemented, if necessary :
- Widening of the junction between Sai Sha Road and Hang On Street before 2000;
- Redesign of the safety island at the junction of On Luk Street and Sai Sha Road to improve traffic circulation;
- Widening of the junction between Sai Sha Road and Ma On Shan Road;
- Widening of the junction at Kam Ying Road and Sai Sha Road and improvement of the traffic light control system;
- Installation of traffic lights at the junction between Hang Hong Street and Hang Kwong Street; and
- Improvement of the existing traffic control system at the junction of Ma On Shan Road and On Shan Lane.
21. The item was voted on and endorsed.
New commitments/Changes in commitments for subvented projects
HEAD 708 - CAPITAL SUBVENTIONS AND MAJOR SYSTEMS AND EQUIPMENT
||Student hostels, phase 1 (806 places) City University of Hong Kong
22. Responding to members' enquiry about the construction unit cost of $9,707 per square metre (at December 1997 prices) for the proposed student hostel in City University (CityU), the Chief Technical Advisor/Subvented Projects, Architectural Services Department (CTA/SP) advised that the estimated costs for the project were drawn up by the consultant of CityU and scrutinized by the Architectural Services Department (ASD) upon the request of the University Grants Committee (UGC). The ASD considered the construction unit cost reasonable when compared to that for similar student hostels in other UGC-funded institutions. CTA/SP added that the construction unit costs were $9,800 and $10,000 (at December 1997 prices) for comparable student hostels at the University of Hong Kong and Lingnan College respectively.
23. CTA/SP advised in reply to a member that due to the lead time required for the collection of information and compilation of statistics on tender prices, the trend construction prices since December 1997 (the point in time at which the estimates for this project was calculated) were not available at present. As to whether the amount of Government subsidy would be adjusted if downward trend prices were subsequently observed, DS/Tsy(3) and CTA/SP explained that the project estimates set out in the proposal, if approved, would be the upper limit of financial commitment for the project while the actual amount of subsidy would depend on the successful bidding price for the project.
24. In reply to a member's enquiry about the reasons for providing the proposed 2 730 hostel places for CityU in three phases instead of in a single phase, the Deputy Secretary- General/UGC advised that the main reason was that under the existing policy of UGC, UGC-funded institutions were required to contribute not less than 25% of the capital costs of student hostels. By phasing the hostel project, CityU could take forward the project as soon as sufficient funds were available for the first phase and in the mean time, proceed to procure the necessary funds for the remaining phases.
25. In reply to a member, CTA/SP advised that the "printing cost" for the project had not been included in the items under the "consultants' staff costs" set out in Enclosure 2 to the discussion paper, but was presented as a separate reimbursable item. He confirmed that there was no double-counting of the printing cost in the project estimates.
|26. Noting the new Government policy promulgated in 1996 on the provision of publicly-funded student hostel places at UGC-funded institutions as a means of enhancing the quality of university education, some members expressed support for the policy direction and urged for a more generous level of provision. In view of members' concern, the Chairman advised that issues related to the policy on university hostels should be further considered by the Education Panel.
27. The item was voted on and endorsed.
Any other business
28. Referring to statements made by the Financial Secretary after the third meeting of the Task Force on Employment (the Task Force) on 13 August 1998, members expressed strong dissatisfaction at the Financial Secretary's remarks reported in the media that the creation of new job opportunities had been delayed as the PWSC had not dealt with all the ten funding proposals for works projects at its meeting on 22 July 1998 as scheduled. Members stressed that it was incumbent upon the Subcommittee to scrutinise funding proposals conscientiously and clarify doubtful points so as to ensure that public money was properly spent. Dr HO Chung-tai stressed that it was improper for members to rush through the 10 proposals on 22 July 1998 which in all cost nearly $5 billion as further clarification was required on certain issues. He also considered it unreasonable to claim that employment opportunities would be jeopardised pending a decision on some items by a matter of two to three weeks, and cautioned that the Administration's criticism would further strain the relationship between the executive and the legislature.
29. In response to members' enquiries, the Chairman confirmed that no request had been received from the Administration to advance the special meeting to consider the remaining items. Members considered the Financial Secretary's criticism unfair and misleading. As the Financial Secretary's remarks had been made openly, Dr HO Chung-tai suggested that the Chairman should issue a written response on behalf of the PWSC to clarify the Subcommittee's position.
30. DS/Tsy(3) explained that the Administration understood and fully respected the Subcommittee's role in scrutinising funding proposals and reiterated that the Administration had no intention whatsoever to suggest that the Subcommittee was delaying endorsement of the proposals. She further clarified that on the aforesaid occasion, the Financial Secretary was merely expressing his disappointment over the fact that contrary to the Administration's hope, not all the ten items put to the PWSC on 22 July 1998 had been endorsed at the same meeting. DS/Tsy(3) expressed appreciation to the Chairman and the Secretariat for arranging this special meeting to consider the remaining items so that they could be submitted in time to the Finance Committee for approval on 18 September 1998. She also thanked the Chairman for agreeing to schedule 17 more meetings during the current session to facilitate scrutiny of funding requests for the large number of projects anticipated to come on stream this year. She undertook to ensure that all necessary information on the funding proposals, including their background and justifications, would be provided by the Administration to facilitate the Subcommittee's consideration of individual items and, hopefully, expedite their endorsement.
31. In this connection, the Chairman said that whilst he also objected to the Financial Secretary's comments on the work of the PWSC, he did not consider it necessary to issue a written response because, apart from media reports, the Subcommittee had not received any formal "complaint" from the Administration. Besides, he believed that members' views expressed today were made at an open meeting and would likely be reported by the media. He asked the Administration to note that the PWSC was equally concerned about the implementation of works projects which would help boost employment opportunities, but it was also members' legitimate duty to scrutinise all the funding proposals seriously. He said that as Chairman of the Subcommittee, he would have to allow sufficient time for members to seek relevant information and clarification on the proposed agenda items. Nevertheless, he referred to his decision to hold 17 more meetings during the session and re-affirmed the Subcommittee's readiness to expedite the scrutiny process.
32. The meeting ended at 12:00 noon.
Legislative Council Secretariat
17 September 1998