LC: CS responds to Report No. 60 of Public Accounts Committee

     Following is the speech (translated from Chinese) by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam, in response to Report No. 60 of the Public Accounts Committee in the Legislative Council today (October 23):


     Laid on the table today is the Government Minute (GM) responding to Report No. 60 of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

     When presenting Report No. 60 on July 10 to the Legislative Council (LegCo), the Chairman of PAC gave comments on two chapters in the Director of Audit's Reports, namely: Administration of road safety measures; and Pre-primary Education Voucher Scheme.

     We are grateful for the time and efforts that the PAC has devoted to investigating these subjects.  We accept the Committee's various recommendations and have set out in detail the specific responses of the relevant bureaux/departments in the GM.  Now, I would like to highlight the key measures that we have taken in these policy areas and the progress.

Administration of road safety measures

     The Government has all along committed to improving the administration of road safety measures.  

     On measures to tackle drink driving, the Police plan to equip all land region police stations with evidential breath test devices by the end of 2013.  With effect from August 1, 2013, the time interval target between taking screening and evidential breath tests has been reduced from 90 minutes to 75 minutes.  The Police also plan to modify a police vehicle as a Mobile Breath Test Centre for trial in December 2013.

     In April 2012, the Road Traffic Ordinance (Cap. 374) was amended to introduce measures to deter speeding by public light bus (PLB) drivers and enhance safe operation of PLBs.  Since then, the Police have conducted a number of territory-wide enforcement operations intended to enhance PLB safety, including detection of speeding PLBs and checking whether PLBs are equipped with speed limiters as required, while the Transport Department (TD) has continued to conduct surveys to check PLB operations.  Since January 2013, the Police have been submitting Defective Vehicle Reports to TD for the latter to arrange vehicle examinations for those PLBs found speeding in excess of the speed limit set by the speed limiter.  Furthermore, with the Government's implementation of the new initiative to phase out pre-Euro IV diesel commercial vehicles, the number of PLBs with passenger seat belts will increase as PLBs registered on or after August 1, 2004 are required by law to be equipped with passenger seat belts.

     Regarding the safe operation of taxis, the Government has, apart from enforcement efforts, implemented a series of publicity and education programmes to tackle the speeding problem of taxis.   

     On franchised buses, TD and the franchised bus companies have completed a review of the health check arrangements of franchised bus captains.  All franchised bus companies have implemented additional measures to further improve the health check arrangements since August 2013, such as requiring bus captains, irrespective of their age, who have suffered from certain illnesses to be subject to annual health checks and an electrocardiogram.

Pre-primary Education Voucher Scheme

     Next, I would like to talk about the Pre-primary Education Voucher Scheme (PEVS).

     In response to PAC's concerns and recommendations regarding PEVS, the Education Bureau (EDB) has implemented improvement measures to step up the regulation of the trading activities and charging of miscellaneous fees by PEVS Kindergartens (KGs).  We have issued a new circular to consolidate all prevailing guidelines and provide clearer guidance on trading activities of KGs.  KGs will also be reminded to properly account for their incomes from trading operation and report them properly in their audited accounts in accordance with the guidelines.  Moreover, to enhance transparency, PEVS KGs have been required to publish additional items of miscellaneous fees in the KG Profile, to which parents make reference when choosing suitable KGs for their children.  KGs have been reminded of the list of items to be covered by school fees, for which parents should not be charged separately.

     To provide further support for the professional upgrading of KG principals and teachers, the EDB will offer course fee reimbursement to principals and teachers who are serving in PEVS KGs and pursuing the relevant approved courses in the 2012/13 and 2013/14 school years.  To help PEVS KGs improve their learning environment and resources, a one-off school development grant up to $250,000 per KG will be disbursed to PEVS KGs in the 2013/14 school year.

     The Committee on Free KG Educationis now examining various issues with a view to making recommendations on the practicable implementation of free KG education, including ways to address the challenges faced by PEVS KGs and affordability of parents.  The Committee will gauge views of stakeholders on the current policy and practice of KG education, including the PEVS, identify issues for possible improvements, consider various options, and make recommendations to the EDB on the way forward, taking into account the recommendations of PAC as well as those made in the Audit Report.  In view of the intricacies of the issues involved and the possible far-reaching implications of any policy changes, the Committee will take about two years to complete its tasks and make recommendations to the Government.  During this period, the Committee will maintain communication with the KG sector and explore short- and medium-term measures which could help KGs meet the challenges.  In this regard, the Government will actively consider providing support accordingly.  The work progress of the Committee will be reported to the LegCo Panel on Education from time to time.

Ends/Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Issued at HKT 11:26