Probe into toilet management

Local | Stella Wong 16 May 2019

Public toilets were described as dilapidated as the Office of the Ombudsman launched a direct investigation into the government's management of the facilities.

It is one of the two direct investigations the watchdog announced yesterday.

It said some public toilets have substandard hygienic conditions or are dilapidated, and damaged facilities often take a long time to repair.

"These situations have not only caused inconvenience to the public, but also affected tourists' impressions of Hong Kong," it added.

The watchdog said about 800 public toilets in the city are managed by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.

The department's outsourced contractors are responsible for daily cleaning and minor repairs, while large-scale repair and maintenance work is usually handled by the Architectural Services Department.

The FEHD also makes recommendations to the ASD annually on toilet renovations.

The investigation into the FEHD's work comes after Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po announced that HK$600 million would be allocated to refurbishing or improving public toilets over the next five years.

The project will also improve ventilation and toilet facilities to enhance cleanliness and hygiene.

In April, the FEHD announced it will install various facilities according to the condition of individual toilets, including sensor-activated taps and flushing facilities, along with electric and blower fans to keep the floor dry.

It is also exploring the possibility of installing air-conditioning systems and dehumidifiers, and providing hand-washing basins, soap dispensers and hand dryers in the form of a Cabinet Wash Hand Basin System to alleviate the odor and wet floor problem.

Apart from public toilets, the watchdog has also launched a direct investigation into the FEHD's monitoring of outsourced street cleaning services.

It said the services are provided by the department via contractors hired through a tendering mechanism, but there has been criticism that the "lowest bid wins" principle has led to poor services.

Ombudsman Winnie Chiu Wai-yin said the watchdog hopes to examine the government's mechanisms and practices on the issues, and make recommendations on improvements. "The cleanliness of streets and the hygiene conditions of public toilets are closely related to our daily lives. They also have an impact on the reputation of Hong Kong as a world city," she said.

Chiu called on the public to submit their views to the Office of the Ombudsman by June 16.

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