A public watchdog has called for heavier penalties on contractors to improve the state of Hong Kong’s public toilets.

The Office of The Ombudsman launched an investigation in response to several media reports of poor hygiene in the city’s public loos.

Photo: Wikicommons.

Its report released Thursday on management and repair of the facilities found that current penalties imposed by the Architectural Services Department (ArchSC), which is responsible for maintenance contractors, were too low to have a deterrent effect.

One contractor was fined only HK$54 for a delay of 125 days on a maintenance project while another was fined HK$16 for two days’ delay.

“We… recommend that ArchSD strengthen its mechanism for monitoring repair services provided by contractors,” Ombudsman Winnie Chiu said.

“We are of the view that delay in works completion would cause partial closure of public toilet facilities and bring inconvenience to users,” the report read.

The city has 808 public toilets, 610 of which are maintained by contractors while the rest are managed directly by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD).

The report also found that management of cleansing services for toilets provided by FEHD was inadequate due a lack of an objective indicators of “proper” or “satisfactory” cleanliness levels during inspections.

Ombudsman Winnie Chiu. Photo: The Office of the Ombudsman.

As a result, no personnel had been subject to a disciplinary hearing from January to September last year for unsatisfactory performance.

The report also recommended that FEHD and ArchSD improve inter-department communication to better respond to repair requests.

The Office of The Ombudsman was established in 1989 to enhance government services by investigating complaints and through self-initiated studies. It makes recommendations to the government based on its findings.

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Rhoda Kwan

Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.