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LC: Speech by CS in presenting Government Minute in response to Report No. 77 of Public Accounts Committee
     Following is the speech (translated from Chinese) by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Chan Kwok-ki, in presenting the Government Minute in response to Report No. 77 of the Public Accounts Committee in the Legislative Council today (October 26):


     Laid on the table today is the Government Minute (GM) responding to Report No. 77 of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) presented to the Legislative Council on July 13, 2022.

     I welcome the Report of the PAC and am grateful for the time and efforts devoted by the ex-Chairman of the PAC, the Hon Chan Chun-ying, and members of the PAC. The Government accepts the PAC's various recommendations and sets out in detail in the GM the specific responses of the relevant bureaux and departments (B/Ds). The PAC conducted public hearings on the chapters on "Highways Department (HyD): Maintenance of public footpaths" and "Safeguarding employees' rights and benefits under labour laws". I would like to highlight the key measures taken and progress made by the Government and relevant organisations in response to the recommendations.

Highways Department: Maintenance of public footpaths

     In response to the comments and recommendations of the PAC and the Audit Report on the maintenance of public footpaths, the HyD has taken various measures to keep the public footpaths in good condition and provide a safe walking environment for pedestrians.

     In respect of the project estimates, the HyD will further verify the actual site conditions and constraints in order to improve the accuracy of the project estimates for future rehabilitation projects. Moreover, the HyD will regularly review the completed projects funded by block allocation under the Capital Works Reserve Fund, and finalise and delete the respective accounts as early as practicable for releasing the unused funds in a timely manner.

     With regard to the inspection and routine maintenance works of public footpaths, the HyD will continue to closely monitor the performance of the contractors to ensure the contractors will record all defects identified during routine inspections and detailed inspections, and will complete the rectification works in a timely manner in accordance with the relevant requirements. If any non-compliance in the inspection or maintenance works is identified, the HyD will issue default notices to the contractors and deduct the contract payments according to the contractual terms.

     As regards the submission of dimension books, if a contractor fails to submit the dimension book within 90 days upon the completion of a works order and without justifiable reasons, the HyD may recover all the previous interim payments under the works order from the contractor in accordance with the contract provisions. This is to ensure that there will be no overpayment. Moreover, the HyD has added a standing discussion item in the regular progress meetings with contractors to monitor the submission of dimension books.

     To enhance work efficiency through the application of innovative technologies, the HyD commenced the development of a new digital management system in April 2022 for completion in the fourth quarter of 2022 for trial. With the new system in place, the management of repair and maintenance works will be digitalised and the processing time on paperwork will be reduced, thereby allowing more resources to be redeployed for strengthening the supervision of the contractors' road maintenance works.

Safeguarding employees' rights and benefits under labour laws

     On the front of labour rights, the Labour Department (LD) attaches great importance to safeguarding employees' statutory employment rights and benefits, and adopts a multi-pronged strategy of conducting workplace inspections, taking out prosecutions against breaches of labour laws, processing employees' compensation claims and applications to the Protection of Wages on Insolvency Fund (PWIF), staging publicity activities, etc. Meanwhile, the LD has adopted enhanced measures, including the completion of the review of the PWIF coverage and business registration levy rate and the implementation of the recommendations on the PWIF's recovery of ex-gratia payment from employers, with a view to safeguarding employees' employment rights and benefits.

     The LD has also implemented various measures to shorten the time required for processing the PWIF applications and disbursing ex-gratia payment to qualified applicants. The PWIF Board has agreed to the proposal to provide legal services by the PWIF to assist applicants in filing bankruptcy or winding-up petitions against their insolvent employers, which is a pre-requisite for releasing ex-gratia payment from the PWIF. This measure will save the PWIF applicants from applying for legal aid, which is subject to means testing, from the Legal Aid Department. It is envisaged that the processing time of the PWIF applications can then be shortened by up to 12 weeks. The LD is pressing ahead with the implementation of this measure within this year.

     The LD will continue to explore practicable ways to take forward the other recommendations, such as further enhancing the effectiveness of workplace inspections, so as to strengthen the protection of employees' statutory employment rights and benefits.

     President, I would like to thank the PAC again for its efforts and suggestions. The concerned B/Ds will strictly adhere to their responses and implement improvement measures as set out in the GM.

     Thank you, President.
Ends/Wednesday, October 26, 2022
Issued at HKT 12:07
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