The government is not short of the mechanisms and resources to ensure that all activities are covered by laws and properly regulated. The civil service's 12 policy bureaus administer 58 departments and agencies with 154,000 staff that cover almost every facet of business and social life. Yet time and again, issues arise that fall between the cracks of governance. The chief executive or chief secretary should at such times step in to determine responsibility and ensure action is taken. There is an urgent need for such leadership. Our environment is suffering because of different branches of government not wishing to take responsibility for certain problems. Companies are taking advantage of some loopholes to strike deals that may infringe on laws. And worse, lives are being endangered and even lost. That was the case last week when a 15-year-old girl was killed in a go-karting accident. She was strangled when her scarf became entangled in the wheels of her vehicle at the privately-owned karting circuit in Tuen Mun. No government department oversees the sport, which operates under the auspices of the Hong Kong Kart Club. The Transport Department said it did not regulate kart racing, and the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department said it did not manage go-karts. A club official said the organisation did not own the track and did not have the ability to ensure that it was properly run and managed at all times. Go-karts can travel as fast as vehicles on our roads. They are strictly regulated in many other developed parts of the world. The club that manages a track in Macau is accountable to a government department. It is difficult to imagine why a sport that can be so dangerous is dealt with in such an off-handed manner by officials. But go-karts are just one of many examples where oversight is wanting. The legality of private columbariums remains unclear despite a shortage of public places for funeral urns. While authorities ponder how to regulate the industry, companies are filling the void by offering niches for HK$200,000 and more. Another opened in a Sha Tin temple on Tuesday with sales contracts containing a clause allowing a full refund if the operators were to lose any lawsuit over the legality of the columbarium. The legislation process in Hong Kong can be notoriously slow. Our government's lack of a democratic mandate to rule means it is sometimes overly cautious with regulation and laws. But even where there are rules, the overlapping responsibilities of departments can mean a lack of oversight. The intervention of a senior government figure is imperative at such times. Environment minister Edward Yau Tang-wah set an example in 2008 when he stepped into the row over the dumping of construction waste on private land. Fortunately, much of the issue fell into his ambit. Acknowledging that the regulatory regime was inadequate, he pledged to co-ordinate departmental efforts to prevent the eyesore. He has promised to work towards increasing government powers and improve monitoring of illegal dumping. Without such effort, the various arms of the government with a degree of interest may have continued to shirk responsibility. Clarity is needed at times of confusion. Ministers are not always the best placed people to provide this. At times where no part of the government is willing to take responsibility, the chief executive or his deputy, the chief secretary, should take charge. Their determining who is responsible and ensuring solutions to these problems can help save lives, livelihoods and the environment.