Drivers choking on red tape from separate emissions tests

Bureaucrats seldom think from the perspective of those affected by their policies and rules, but a way must be found to make it easier for drivers 

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 February, 2016, 2:04am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 February, 2016, 2:04am

With almost 170,000 civil servants working across some 100 bureaus and departments, the Hong Kong government is undeniably a bloated bureaucracy. While this ensures that every issue will somehow fall within the responsibility of a certain department, the chances are that each agency only discharges its duty in a compartmentalised and rigid manner.

The problem has been highlighted in an investigation initiated by the Ombudsman. It was found that drivers had been summoned to put vehicles through new emissions tests imposed by the Environmental Protection Department, even though the vehicles might have just passed the annual examination required by the Transport Department. What makes it more absurd is that the annual test already covers emissions from idling engines. But since 2014, a new law focusing on nitrogen oxide emissions came into effect. Vehicles are required to run on special treadmills, which are not available when undergoing annual tests.

Although the Ombudsman only received four complaints, the impact arising from the red tape is potentially far greater. Since the new emissions test came into effect, more than 800,000 vehicles have been screened and 5,000 test notices issued.

This is not the first time departments have come under fire for a lack of coordination in enforcement. The watchdog noted that the new emissions rule was floated as early as 2002, which means the government has had more than 10 years for preparation to minimise inconvenience to drivers. The outcome would have been different had the departments worked out a more motorist-friendly approach to facilitating compliance.

Bureaucrats seldom think from the perspective of those affected by their policies and rules. Mandating similar tests may not seem that big an issue to the departments concerned. But it adds to the long list of examples of how red tape can turn into hassles for the people. The authorities must find ways to consolidate the tests.