THE HONGKONG Coalition of Service Industries has called on the Government to improve public consultation on telecommunications policy. The coalition, the services sector arm of the Hongkong General Chamber of Commerce, also called for clarification of the role of the planned Office of the Telecommunications Authority (OFTA). Coalition secretary Chan Wai-kwan said the group welcomed the formation of OFTA - which will take over telecommunications regulation from the Postmaster General's office - but said there were reservations about the independence of the body from policy-makers in other branches of the Government. Mr Chan said the coalition wanted clarification of the specific powers that OFTA would be granted to enforce policy, warning that too much power might lead to unwanted interference by the regulator in commercial affairs. He said telecommunications operators should be able to negotiate their own interconnection agreements, rather than having them dictated by the regulator. OFTA would then become involved only when companies were unable to come to reach such agreements amicably. ''The precise role of the OFTA should firstly be clearly defined, and then the Government should not give it any more power than is required to carry out that prescribed role,'' Mr Chan said. Two bills relating to OFTA are currently before the Legislative Council. The Government had hoped to have the watchdog body established some time in the second quarter of the year. Meanwhile, all telecommunications regulatory responsibility remains with the Postmaster General. Mr Chan said that once OFTA was established, more effective means of formal industry and public consultation should be set up. ''There is precious little consultation at all on telecommunications policy and the directions that we should be taking,'' Mr Chan said. ''There really should be a lot more transparency [in policy-making] and there should be a lot more involvement of the public.'' Mr Alex Arena, who will head OFTA and currently advises the Government on telecommunications policy, said there was little in the coalition's position paper that differed from official policy. He said one of his first tasks as head of OFTA would be to establish more effective channels - both formal and informal - of public consultation and access. ''I will be having a good hard look at the consultation mechanisms when I take on that role as head of OFTA,'' Mr Arena said. ''I certainly put a high store on consultation, so I would be seeking the views of the public and the industry.'' Mr Chan said the coalition welcomed the establishment of OFTA - it had called on the Government to separate the telecommunications authority from the Post Office in March last year - and the appointment of Mr Arena as its head.