City-wide window checks 'would take 42 years'

Local | Jane Cheung 15 Aug 2019

The Buildings Department is so slow in implementing compulsory window checks that it would take 42 years to complete the city-wide inspection, the Ombudsman has found.

The watchdog also found in its investigation that the department was too slow to take action against residents who defied orders.

Ombudsman Winnie Chiu Wai-yin yesterday said when the scheme started in 2012, the department planned to complete the first inspection cycle by mid-2017, but based on its progress, it would require almost 42 years to complete it.

She said in 2012, the department set a target to select 5,800 buildings for mandatory inspection every year.

However, the number of buildings actually selected in 2012 and 2013 was less than 70 percent of the goal. "Since 2014, the department has significantly reduced the number of target buildings and it has stopped setting any target completion time for the first cycle of inspections," she said.

"As of 2018, only 37 percent of buildings whose age [above 10 years] was within the scope of the scheme had been selected as target buildings."

Chiu said by March this year, around 49,000 notices - 10 percent of a total of 490,000 issued - for inspections were not complied with.

"The department has also failed to properly monitor compliance with statutory notices of the scheme," she said.

In cases selected for inspection in 2017 and last year, 77 and 78 percent respectively were terminated because property owners refused to be checked or did not respond to the request.

"Huge resources were spent on site audits, yet for very limited effectiveness," Chiu said.

She recommended the Buildings Department conduct a comprehensive review of the scheme and lay down practicable targets to speed up listing buildings that are older than 10 years to be covered by the scheme.

The Ombudsman asked the department to take timely enforcement action against property owners who fail to comply with a notice.

jane.cheung@singtaonewscorp.com

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