Works depts staff wages on the line in Legco filibuster

Works depts staff wages on the line in Legco filibuster

Danny Chung

With the high drama of the current filibustering in the Legislative Council over the new government budget continuing to grab the news headlines, staff and contractors working for the government works departments will not doubt be feeling edgy about getting paid.

According to the Appropriation Bill presented by the Financial Secretary for the financial year 2013-14, the total running costs for the various works departments such as Architectural Services Department are estimated at HK$16.2 billion.

The breakdown of these costs are found in the estimates to the government’s budget announced in February and include items such as staff salaries and various other items depending on the department.

The total estimated sum for “Personal Emoluments” which include salaries, allowances and job-related allowances for the works departments comes to nearly HK$6 billion.

Apart from the works departments, Lands Department and Planning Department, which come under the Development Bureau, has estimated costs totalling HK$2.6 billion of which personal emoluments account for HK$2 billion.

At policy level, the total running costs for the Works Branch of the Development Bureau is estimated at HK$473 billion while Planning and Lands Branch will cost HK$764 billion to run.

Out of the six works departments, Water Services Department is the most expensive to run at HK$6.8 billion with personal emoluments accounting for HK$1.5 billion.

The purchasing of water however is the biggest single cost item in WSD’s budget at HK$3.8 billion.

Estimates of expenditure for the various government works departments and bureaux for the financial year 2013/14 as found in the Appropriation Bill (Danny Chung)

Estimates of expenditure for the various government works departments and bureaux for the financial year 2013/14 as found in the Appropriation Bill (Danny Chung)

Within each department’s budget are other significant items.

For example, ASD has a budget of HK$602 million for maintenance of government buildings while Highways Department has earmarked HK$930 million for highway maintenance.

Contract maintenance for Civil Engineering and Development Department, Drainage Services Department, Buildings Department and WSD total HK$1.8 billion.

The same departments excluding CEDD have also earmarked HK$308 million for the hire of services and professional fees.

The government faces a funding crisis if it cannot get its budget approved by Legco by 15 May at the latest.

According to a report by Sing Tao Daily last Sunday, the Financial Secretary is considering emergency measures and has asked bureau heads to submit estimates of cash outgoings for six months by this Friday.

Filibustering from radical pro-democracy legislators unhappy over the budget and who want the implementation of a universal pension scheme has held up approval of the government’s Appropriation Bill, the sum for which totals HK$356 billion.

The biggest single item in the budget is HK$57.3 billion for “Miscellaneous services” followed by HK$54.7 billion for the Social Welfare Department.

The third biggest item is HK$45.6 billion for the Food and Health Bureau.

Contractors working for government works projects however can rest easy though.

“Capital works projects are funded under the Capital Works Reserve Fund. As funding should have already been approved by the Finance Committee before the projects commence (and no more funding approval is required unless increase in approved project estimate is required), the current filibuster will not affect these projects in terms of financing and payment to contractors,” a Development Bureau spokeswoman said.

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