SNAP SITE inspections will be carried out by Hong Kong government officials as part of a new auditing system to boost the quality of maintenance on public works projects.
The new monitoring network is being introduced by the government's Works Bureau, which oversees projects handled by the seven main infrastructure departments including highways, civil engineering, drainage and water supplies.
Bureau deputy secretary (works policy) Chan Wing-sang said each department should devise its own auditing system. He added that audits should be conducted on a 'surprise or random basis' covering critical site activities and be independent of all project staff.
The auditing teams are being created in response to an earlier report in which Chan heavily criticised the quality of maintenance and repairs on public works projects. He claimed pavements were routinely blocked even when contractors were not working, that unrealistic completion dates were being given and that road surfaces were being inadequately compacted.
Chan said the main reason for poor quality work was 'the entrenched and unhealthy culture of the maintenance sector.' He added that the level of supervision of maintenance contracts was insufficient and that contractors were bidding too low 'with an intention to cut corners after they are awarded the contracts'.
In addition to the auditing system, the Works Bureau will overhaul the way maintenance contracts are awarded. Firms will now have to prequalify for work in the same way that major new projects are awarded.
A review of the schedule of rates, used to price most maintenance work, will also be carried out to 'set realistic targets and help end, with proper monitoring, the current cut throat price bidding', Chan said.
One Hong Kong maintenance contractor admitted that the quality of work was low because contracts were frequently won at a loss. He told NCE: 'Main contractors put the work out to subcontractors who sub and sub it again. The only way to make money is to cut corners - milling just 30- 40mm off the asphalt road surface instead of the required 75-100mm.'