The Government should turn to the private sector for help in fixing the troubled $27 billion Strategic Sewage Disposal Scheme currently under review, a public hearing on the scheme heard yesterday. The green group Friends of the Earth even suggested privatising the whole scheme, which has been delayed for three years by contractual disputes, tunnelling problems and cost overruns. Director of the Conservancy Association Albert Lai Kwong-tak accused the Government of incompetence and urged officials to allow more private firms to participate in any revised scheme to design, build and operate sewage treatment and disposal facilities. 'Hong Kong's private sector is well known for its energy and innovation. Why can't we take advantage of that?' Mr Lai asked. Greenpeace campaigner Howard Liu Hung-to said such a body should have a wider perspective, dealing with water pollution in the whole Pearl River Delta instead of Victoria Harbour alone. Professor Donald Harleman, a waste water treatment specialist and a spokesman for the six-member review panel, said it would study privatisation in other parts of the world. 'We will look at the pros and cons, but not details of the financial arrangements or how funds should be raised,' he said. The review group will submit a final report by November and the Government will decide the way forward by the first quarter of next year. Under the original proposal, the Government was to build another tunnel discharging treated effluent into waters east of Lamma Island following the completion of Phase One. Phase One will collect sewage from Kowloon and several districts on Hong Kong Island and take it to a treatment plant on Stonecutters Island by tunnel. This part of the four-phase project has been plagued by problems such as leakages, work stoppages and contractual disputes that have contributed to considerable delays in the completion of the scheme. Water-pumping work and work on construction of seven deep tunnels, which is 90 per cent complete, has so far cost $8.2 billion and has been blamed for abnormal subsidence in Tseung Kwan O.