Budgets carefully scrutinised
YOUR article headlined, ''Urbco told to get its sums rights'' (South China Morning Post, December 29) made no mention of the various factors which must be taken into account in preparing for the Urban Council's financial forecasts - inflation, wage increases and delayed payment for projects caused by unexpected delays, such as inclement weather.
None of these can be forecast with accuracy in a budget based on actual costs. Furthermore, the article failed to note that the largest discrepancy between estimated and actual income, for 1991/92, resulted from adjusted post-Budget rates income, which was beyond the council's control. The council painstakingly scrutinises individual budgets for each of its functional Select Committees, under which funds are provided for the widespread municipal services and activities performed by the Urban Services Department on behalf of the Council.
These services and activities range from the basics such as protection of public health, street cleaning and provision of markets to many of the things that have enriched our quality of life - modern sports and leisure facilities, parks and playgrounds, swimming pools and beaches, libraries, museums, and cultural venues ranging from the Hong Kong Cultural Centre to district civic centres.
All these are for the benefit of the people of Hong Kong. The council's annual budget is now over $5 billion, and if it is accepted that forecasts can be affected by many variables such as the aforementioned inflation and wage increases, variations in rates, our budgets must be considered as accurate and totally responsible, as they should be. In fact, we were never more than a few percentage points off the mark.
THOMAS A. HAHN Chief Information Officer For Director of Urban Services