FUTURE private operators of Hongkong's 13,000 parking meters will be forced to provide at least $30 million in bank guarantees to ensure the Government is paid regularly. A special Government working party, which includes officials from the ICAC, is finalising contracts for private parking meter management. However, the Automobile Association yesterday raised doubts about benefits of privatisation for consumers, and warned of the need to protect drivers from being penalised for faulty meters. The tender operation for the three-year contract is due to start in March, with at least 10 local companies already expressing interest. About 120 Transport Department staff and seven from the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department will be affected. Assistant Commissioner for Transport, Mr Ernest Lee Shu-wing, said because of the volume of money involved, protection for the Government was vital. ''With revenue of $133 million from parking meters last year, we think it's reasonable to have bank guarantees,'' he said. ''We will be expecting money to be handed to us every fortnight, so three months should give us protection.'' The new contractors will be responsible for the management, operation and maintenance of the meters. The Government will retain control of approving meter types, charges and locations while monitoring performance standards. Although the new contractor will receive a percentage of all revenue collected, they would receive any money from a Government move to increase parking fare. The working group would also study administration of the contract to ensure the public would be protected, Mr Lee said. Automobile Association chief executive Mr Phil Taylor said the Government must ensure drivers can still obtain records of phone calls warning of broken meters should they be given tickets. ''With these half-privatisations, there are many, many questions we'd like to see answered before we'd be sure that they will benefit the consumer at all,'' Mr Taylor said. The Transport Department is also seeking tenders for the operation and management of 14 Government multi-storey car parks and the production, marketing and sale of Government tunnel tickets.