A SENIOR civil servant is being chosen to ''spend, spend, spend'' as much as he can of the billions of dollars earmarked for public works projects not associated with the airport. Embarrassed by serious underspending by the Government's works departments in the past financial year, the Financial Secretary, Mr Hamish Macleod, is expected to announce in his March 3 Budget speech that he is appointing a Director of Public Works to ensure capital works money is spent on schedule. Mr Spend-Up will probably come from among the Government's professional grade staff and be charged with getting non-airport projects finished on time and within budget. Latest Government estimates indicate that in the current financial year, only about 70 per cent of the funds earmarked for non-airport capital works projects have been spent. On top of this, 20 per cent of the airport core programme is also behind schedule. It is expected that more than $7 billion will be unspent when Mr Macleod announces his initiatives next week. This accounts for a large proportion of the year's embarrassingly high surplus, expected to pass the $22.5 billion record made last year. Mr Macleod is understood to be concerned that the level of underspending does not continue. Mr Macleod spotted the problem last year and ordered the Secretary for the Treasury, Mr Yeung Kai-yin, and the Secretary for Works, Mr James Blake, to tackle the underspending issue. But during the course of the current financial year, the problem continued with little, if any, improvement and money kept piling up. The Finance Branch sent a memo to the Works Department last month authorising blanket approval for construction and consultancy tenders without going through the usual course of first seeking Legislative Council backing. This will partly address the problem of project slippage in the long run, but officials maintain that it is too late to reduce the surplus figure this year. The new director, considered as an equivalent of the director of the New Airport Projects Co-ordination Office (NAPCO), will be responsible for co-ordinating non-airport core projects. While the co-ordinating role is currently the responsibility of the Works Branch, it is understood the Government considers the monitoring machinery is not working effectively. A key function of the new director is to ensure that non-airport public works programmes should proceed as scheduled. Other measures include extending the use of the manual of projects cost estimates and project control procedures for the airport core programme to non-airport projects. Officials are understood to be satisfied with the project control process adopted for the airport core projects in respect of completing plans on time and within budget. The main purpose for borrowing the NAPCO manual is to ensure an effective implementation plan for capital works projects so there would be overall planning and proper cost estimates and control. It would also help spot problems and rectify them in the early stage of the projects to avoid serious slippage.