YOU MAY HAVE noticed an angry letter to the editor yesterday from Director of Environmental Protection Robert Law ('Suggestions of sinister dealings are completely groundless'), saying I had it all wrong in doubts I earlier cast on how a tender for particulate matter traps on light diesel engines was conducted. Right, here we go. In February 1998, the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) received a diesel pollution study specially prepared for it by a respected expert, Michael P. Walsh. The study dealt with all forms of diesel pollution, different exhaust-control devices, various manufacturers of these devices and the record of their use abroad. With reference to light diesel vehicles, it said tests showed that traps could reduce regulated particulate emissions by just over 80 per cent for a typical IDI (InDirect Injected) diesel and by up to an order of magnitude for an older IDI diesel. Next we turn to a Legislative Council briefing paper in May 2000 (CB(2)1909/99-000(01)) from the Environment and Food Bureau, which says that the Polytechnic University has developed a low-cost particulate trap and, following trials in conjunction with the EPD, proposes retrofitting them in Hong Kong. This paper says that 'on a comprehensive emission testing conducted by the Tianjin University, the trap can reduce up to 30 per cent of the particulate emissions . . .' Note the 'up to' 30 per cent, not 'just over' 80 per cent or an order of magnitude, and that no precise reference is given here to the tests used. It is given elsewhere in a PolyU report dated July 2000, which cites a precise 30 per cent (not 'up to') and cites ECE-R49. However, a check on the Internet with a site called dieselnet.com defines ECE R-49 as a steady state cycle test for heavy-duty truck engines, not light duty, and also says it was used before 2000. We are now already well into 2000. The Legco paper also says that a technical committee will be formed to identify traps which could perform 'at least as well' as the PolyU's but notes 'it would not be efficient use of time and resources' to arrange a trial for each of them and the proponents themselves will have to 'demonstrate the efficacy of their products'. The schedule in this paper calls for tendering in June, evaluation in October and retrofitting to start in December 2000. Then on June 2 we get a press release from the EPD calling for tenders and announcing that they will now close on June 23, not October. The traps are now required to remove 'at least 30 per cent' and tenderers themselves must prove it. On what standard that 30 per cent is based seems to remain undefined as the winner, Eco-Tek (with the PolyU's system), notes in its prospectus in November last year that ' . . . no detailed official standard for vehicle particulate reduction devices has yet been announced by the relevant authorities of the Hong Kong Government . . .' And there you have it. While already in possession of a detailed study showing that an 80 per cent reduction for diesel exhaust is achievable from existing suppliers, the EPD gets together with the PolyU to devise a trap that makes only a 30 per cent reduction by the standards of an outmoded test for a different vehicle. It then calls for tenders only after already having asked Legco for funding for this system, cuts the tender period to three weeks from three months, says other tenderers must prove themselves and does not give them the benefit of the trials and co-operation it gave the PolyU system. And this is how the Government conducts tenders? Yes, I do have my doubts, Mr Law, and I think I have some reason for them.