Millions of dollars worth of government-subsidised elderly care service contracts have been awarded to private organisations under a bidding system, despite criticism from the welfare sector. The Director of Social Welfare Service, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, announced yesterday that 18 service contracts worth $189 million had been given to 14 non-government organisations through open bidding to provide enhanced home care and community care services to 1,453 elderly people over three years. The service aims to allow the elderly to stay at home, she said. Those found to be moderately impaired will be eligible. Mrs Lam said the Government had approved $140 million in the coming budget report to provide similar services for 2,000 to 3,000 old people. Under the new system, subsidies for each person will be $3,613 a month compared with the $7,160 a month offered to those living in homes for the elderly. But Mrs Lam said the aim was not to cut costs. 'It is the aspiration of most elderly. They prefer home care to institutional care and most families in Hong Kong are prepared to care for them at home with the provision of adequate home and community support services,' she said. Dr Law Chi-kwong, the legislator representing the welfare sector, said competitive bidding had been implemented in Australia in 1995 but was dumped in 1999 because of problems with continuity of service. 'There will be a spin-off effect that the bidding price or the cost must be dragged down, thus inevitably affecting the service quality,' he said. Lilian Law Suk-kwan from the Hong Kong Council of Social Services said such a system meant it was difficult to monitor the quality of services.