Fire department's failings exposed

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 January, 2011, 12:00am

The Fire Services Department lacks planning, manpower and an integrated computer system for major procurements, a study has found, despite HK$515 million worth of equipment having been bought this financial year.

The Government Efficiency Unit conducted the study amid concerns over equipment and procurement procedures following last year's inquest into the 2008 Cornwall Court blaze, in which two firemen died.

The study, commissioned at the request of the Legislative Council, revealed that the department did not have a dedicated team to manage major procurement projects, which were instead handled by eight business units without professional knowledge.

'Many officers handle procurements as part-time work, and many of them do not have enough knowledge about the procedures,' Yuk Wai-fung, of the Efficiency Unit, told Legco's security panel yesterday.

Deputy director of fire services Chan Chor-kam admitted manpower was tight in the procurement department and a centralised model suggested by the Efficiency Unit would be effective from April.

Many lawmakers expressed dissatisfaction with the department's procurement procedures.

'It was found that no one managed procurement properly for a very long time and nobody wants to take responsibility for this, despite the fact people were killed,' Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee of the Civic Party said.

Unionist legislator Wong Kwok-hing said 'a string of procurement problems' had been exposed. The department said a digital communication system for firefighters was expected to be introduced in July.