LCQ8: Rear lane cleansing work

     Following is a question by the Hon Stanley Li and a written reply by the Secretary for Environment and Ecology, Mr Tse Chin-wan, in the Legislative Council today (November 9):
     Regarding the rear lane cleansing work of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD), will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether the FEHD has regularly inspected and cleansed rear lanes in each of the past three years and since January this year; if so, of the details, including the number of cases of irregularities identified during the inspections, the process for handling such cases, and how the FEHD has effectively monitored the performance of outsourced service contractors; if not, the reasons for that;
(2) of the mechanism put in place by the FEHD to handle complaints about the environmental hygiene conditions of rear lanes, as well as the law enforcement actions to be taken;
(3) of the number of complaints received by the FEHD about the environmental hygiene conditions of rear lanes, as well as the number of cases in respect of which law enforcement actions have been taken, in each of the past three years and since January this year;
(4) given that the FEHD has set up 24 rear lane clearance teams dedicated to tackling environmental hygiene problems in rear lanes, whether it has assessed the effectiveness of the work of the teams; and
(5) as it is learnt that irregularities of food preparation in rear lanes by food premises have frequently occurred, whether the FEHD will review the effectiveness of its law enforcement efforts and make improvements?

     The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) has always been mindful of the environmental hygiene condition of rear lanes. It has adopted a multi-pronged approach and has taken targeted measures to improve the hygiene problems therein.
     The reply to the question raised by Hon Stanley Li is as follows:
(1) There are different causes leading to the specific environmental hygiene problems in rear lanes, which include, among other things, illegal deposit of refuse, illegal placing of articles and preparation of food or washing of utensils by food premises in their adjoining rear lanes, etc. The FEHD staff conduct inspections to streets and rear lanes in all districts on a regular basis. If any irregularities are found during inspections, the FEHD staff would take enforcement actions in accordance with the actual circumstances and the relevant legislation, including issuing to the offender a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN), initiating prosecution and requiring the offender to remove the refuse or articles illegally deposited/placed at the rear lanes. For examples, if illegal deposit of refuse is involved or if any cleanliness offence is committed in a rear lane, the law enforcement officer would issue a FPN to the offender under the Fixed Penalty (Public Cleanliness and Obstruction) Ordinance (Cap. 570), or initiating prosecution against the offender under the Public Cleansing and Prevention of Nuisances Regulation (Cap. 132BK).  If an article is found causing obstruction to scavenging operations in a rear lane, the law enforcement officer would issue a Notice to Remove Obstruction requiring its owner to remove the article concerned within a specified time limit under the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap. 132). In case of non-compliance, the FEHD would remove the article direct and consider initiating prosecution against the owner.
     If irregularities involving licensed food premises are found during inspections (e.g. preparation of food in rear lanes), the FEHD staff would issue warnings to or institute prosecutions against the premises concerned having regard to the licensing conditions or the offences committed, and resort to the Demerit Points System and the Warning Letter System in imposing suspension or cancellation of licences according to the circumstances.
     From 2019 to the present, the enforcement figures of the FEHD in relation to environmental hygiene in rear lanes are set out in Annex.
     To ensure that the contractors perform their cleansing operations in such public places as rear lanes with due diligence, the FEHD has put in place a mechanism for managing the service performance of outsourced contractors. First, performance standards and minimum requirements on manpower, work shift and frequency of service for each cleansing task based on operational needs are clearly stipulated in the tender documents for outsourced services.  Besides, the FEHD would check the contractors' compliance of the contract terms based on its internal operational manuals by means of site inspections, surprise checks and examination of job records. In the event of any irregularities, defaults or non-compliance with the contract terms in the delivery of service, the FEHD would take punitive actions, including issuing verbal warnings, written warnings or default notices and deducting monthly payments as appropriate. Such performance records would also have a bearing on the tenderer's future bidding for the FEHD's outsourced service contracts.
(2) and (3) In the past three years (2019 - 2021), the FEHD received 4 148, 3 984 and 4 546 complaints respectively about the environmental hygiene condition of rear lanes. From January to September 2022, a total of 2 727 complaints were received. Upon receipt of any complaint, the FEHD would conduct a site investigation and follow up the environmental hygiene problems on site, including asking the outsourced contractor to remove refuse and clear the rear lane. Upon identification of any irregularities, the FEHD staff would take appropriate law enforcement actions under the mechanism stated in (1) above.
     The FEHD does not keep record of the number of enforcement actions taken against complaints about the environment hygiene condition of rear lanes.
(4) Since 2019, the FEHD has set up 24 rear lane cleansing teams dedicated to the cleansing of rear lanes. The teams have enhanced the environmental hygiene condition of rear lanes and the effectiveness of pest control work by increasing the use of street washing vehicles and high pressure hot water cleaners for washing rear lanes, and by stepping up the clearance of illegally deposited refuse and articles.
     According to the FEHD's assessment, the provision of enhanced cleansing services in rear lanes by dedicated teams can mitigate the problem of refuse accumulation more effectively and improve the overall environmental hygiene condition of rear lanes in a more focused manner. The FEHD would continue to enhance the hygiene condition of rear lanes through the rear lane cleansing teams, along with other measures such as working with the relevant departments in stepping up efforts to combat hygiene blackspots, extending the coverage of Internet Protocol cameras and allowing licensed food premises to place large refuse bins in their rear lanes for temporary storage of refuse in a proper manner.
(5) To maintain food safety and environmental hygiene, section 13 of the Food Business Regulation (Cap. 132X) stipulates that no food premises shall carry out any food preparation or related process, including cleaning, preparing or cooking food, and washing, cleansing or storing any equipment or utensil used in the preparation or service of food, in open spaces such as rear lanes.
     To combat illegal food preparation in rear lanes by food business operators, the FEHD reviews from time to time the effectiveness of its law enforcement efforts and adjusts its enforcement strategies, with a view to enhancing the effectiveness of its enforcement actions. For example, apart from performing regulatory inspections, the FEHD conducts surprise inspections from time to time, and takes enforcement actions against offenders accordingly.
     To further improve environmental hygiene and mitigate the problem of rodent infestation in rear lanes, the FEHD launched a trial scheme on November 7, 2022, in selected rear lanes of various districts, allowing licensed food premises under certain conditions to place large refuse bins in their rear lanes for proper and temporary storage of refuse pending collection. The FEHD would assess the effectiveness of the trial scheme as appropriate.

Ends/Wednesday, November 9, 2022
Issued at HKT 14:25