$34 m to pay for study on spending

Linda Choy

THE Government has asked legislators for $34 million - to eliminate underspending.

The Secretary for Works, Mr James Blake, said the money would pay for a nine-month study to look at efficiency and co-operation between departments in a bid to boost public works spending.

Last year the Government underspent its public works budget by $3.6 billion.

And it was criticised for not getting planned public facilities off the ground as scheduled.

The Deputy Secretary for Works, Miss Elaine Chung Lai-kwok, admitted the Government had failed to eliminate the problem although a number of bottle-necks had been identified.

''When the Government handles all the public works, it is time-consuming and often requires the effort of numerous departments for projects as minor as the building of a footbridge,'' she said.

''We need to borrow the experience of the private sector to deal with the projects.'' A steering committee headed by the Financial Secretary, Mr Hamish Macleod, will oversee the study, set to start on May 1.

Mr Macleod said in his Budget last month that underspending was unacceptable for the Government.

''It is true that we have set ourselves ambitious targets but such delays are not acceptable and we have to act urgently,'' he said.