The Ombudsman has slammed paltry fines and the government’s blind eye to bad performance in managing the city’s mounting street garbage problem, in a new direct investigation into Food and Environmental Health Department (FEHD) contractor oversight.
Ombudsman Winnie Chiu Wai-yin says FEHD’s system of tiny fines and weak monitoring are no deterrent to poor contractor performance, with even contractors scoring zero on performance appraisals easily winning lucrative new contracts.
Garbage and street cleaning contractors failing to meet service agreements were docked an average of HK$81,000 fees in 2019, just 0.07% of the average contract value of HK$110 million.
Last year, successful tenderers for street cleaning had scored an average of two out of 10 in their previous performance appraisals, with 43% of them scoring zero, yet still winning subsequent contracts.
Under government tendering rules, the department could temporarily ban poorly performing contractors from tendering – yet not a single company has been banned in the last decade, despite soaring numbers of complaints against FEHD and its garbage-related services.
There’s around 190 complaints every day made against FEHD, up 20% from 156 per day in 2015.
The Ombudsman also found FEHD failed to use data in a smart way, with no systematic use of complaint data to build lists of hotspots. The Ombudsman recommended a review of the tendering mechanism, a deterrent element to service fee deductions, a reward scheme for good performance and better analysis of complaint data.
According to the government, Hong Kong’s waste issue is approaching crisis point, with around 16,000 tonnes of garbage dumped in landfills every day. The government has a waste charging bill before LegCo which, if passed, would start charging people and businesses to dispose of their waste under a “polluter pays” principle.