The Transport Department will set up a task force to see whether the application procedures for driving licences should be improved after 10 qualified applicants for driving instructors' licences were wrongly rejected due to a data-entry error.
Deputy commissioner for transport Carolina Yip Lai-ching said the department had learnt of the blunder after receiving several inquiries from applicants asking why they were rejected.
'Our staff made mistakes when they entered the applicants' data manually into the computer,' she said. 'We apologise for the error.'
Mistakes included wrong entry of the type of licence applied for and the status of the applicants' existing licences.
The department decided in April to issue 460 new driving instructors' licences after freezing the quota for seven years.
The news attracted about 34,000 applications for three types of licence - private cars and vans; minibuses and franchised buses; and medium and heavy trucks. Of these 2,500 were rejected in the first screening while the remaining applicants underwent a balloting system to determine when they would sit for the driving tests and written examinations.
Yip said the blunder would not delay the 10 applicants' chances to sit for an early exam as they would be included in another ballot on Saturday exactly like the first and there were vacancies for the first exam.
The first batch of 347 applicants sat the written test in October and are due for the driving examination later this month. But 13 of them have since been eliminated - either because they submitted wrong information or their appeal against convictions on traffic offences were overruled, so there is room for the wrongly barred applicants if they win selection in the first group.
The department said it was the first time it had made such a mistake, but Yip said sometimes human error could not be avoided.
'There were 14 people handling the 34,000 applications,' she said.
An investigation was under way and no staff had yet been disciplined.
Yip said online applications, being promoted by the department, would reduce the need for manual entry of personal data and the risk of data-entry errors.
Last year, Census and Statistics Department staff entered wrong data in a formula that calculates if bus operators should apply for a fare adjustment, dashing hopes of an imminent cut in fares.