Councillors call for better execution of public works
Fanny W. Y. Fung
District councillors want more efficiency and flexibility in the construction of public facilities.
The call follows the expansion of district councils' functions in January to include the management of public facilities such as libraries, swimming pools and sports grounds.
In the first 11 months of the year, the city's 18 councils approved 626 minor works projects for public facilities, the total cost of which is estimated to be HK$373 million, according to the Home Affairs Bureau.
While most councillors welcomed the district-driven mode of facility management, some pointed out problems with the implementation of projects.
Suen Kai-cheong, chairman of Wan Chai District Council, one of four councils which took part in a pilot scheme last year, said some of the works approved in the previous session had not yet started.
'Whenever it comes to works which involve creativity, the process becomes lengthy,' he said.
Citing as an example the beautification project for three footbridges in Gloucester Road, Mr Suen said that construction had still not started even though councillors from the previous term had approved the design which won a competition early last year. 'The government said it did not oppose the design, but would remove the decorations if it had to carry out repairs on the bridges, and the council would have to approve funding for their installation again,' Mr Suen said.
Sai Kung district councillor Raymond Ho Man-kit, who is also the convenor of pressure group Momentum 107, blamed consultants for the inefficiency and increased cost.
He said one example was a proposal for covering a walkway on King Lam Estate, Tseung Kwan O. The consultant had said the project would cost HK$4 million. It included accessories such as spotlights, which the councillors considered 'luxurious', and the plan was rejected. A cheaper plan costing HK$2 million was later approved.
Central and Western District Council chairman Chan Tak-chor described the initial implementation of the policy as a painful experience because many consultant companies had not understood what districts wanted.
But he observed that communication had improved significantly over the year and that the new policy had allowed for improvement works in popularly used public areas.
'Some roads have heavy pedestrian flows and some squares have become popular resting sites for the elderly.
'But neither the government departments nor owners of nearby buildings are willing to maintain them,' Mr Chan said.
'The district council has now taken up this role.'
Sham Shui Po has approved 95 projects since January, the most among all districts.
The council's district facilities committee chairman Jimmy Kwok Chun-wah said the policy had given councils more autonomy, and facilities could be built to better suit residents' needs.