Companies with a poor performance record have never been awarded contracts to build public housing even if tendering the lowest bid for such work, Director of Housing Tony Miller said yesterday. Testifying on the second day of the Legco select committee inquiry into a series of piling scams, Mr Miller said it was hypothetically possible for contracts be given to such contractors if they offered bids at rock-bottom prices, but in reality this had not happened. His remarks came after concerns were raised by Howard Young of the Liberal Party and unionist legislator Lee Cheuk-yan. Mr Miller said bids were vetted by experienced quantity surveyors. 'If a bid is too aggressive, clearly question marks would have been raised,' he said. Questioned by Mr Lee, Mr Miller said preferential scores were given by the administration to contractors and consultants. Those performing badly would be at a disadvantage in future tendering, the housing chief said. Members were told that contracts normally went to the lowest bid 97 or 98 per cent of the time. He said other considerations for awarding contracts included technical feasibility and financial health. While acknowledging that there was not a quality assurance division within the Housing Department, Mr Miller said there were several units responsible for that sort of work. Non-affiliated legislator Audrey Eu Yuet-mee urged Mr Miller to supply statistics on the increase of Housing Department employees from 1995-96 and 2000-01, a time of soaring public housing production. She queried whether there were sufficient staff to meet demand during this period. He agreed to supply the information but stressed that the figures should be looked at carefully. If a large number of staff were taken on for the peak period, it would have inevitably led to redundancies later. Mr Miller, who will continue his testimony on Saturday, earlier expressed fears that the Government's plan to build more public housing was too radical.