The expansion of Hong Kong’s legislature complex is set to cost close to HK$400 million more than the original estimate owing to “unique and unprecedented” difficulty of the work, a government document has revealed.
In a paper submitted to the Public Works Subcommittee, the Architectural Services Department (ASD) said the price tag of the project to add new floors of offices and ancillary facilities for lawmakers and the Legislative Council (LegCo) Secretariat would increase from around HK$1.17 billion to HK$1.56 billion.
The HK$391.2 million difference was a result of tender prices being “higher than expected,” the department explained, saying major work and installations had a “comparatively higher market pricing.”
The expansion work would require special working hours, site management and construction methods, the ASD said, as the contractors must ensure that the LegCo could continue to “discharge its constitutional functions” without disruption. The department said construction work may only take place at night, which “aggravated the complexities and escalated the costs.”
“[T]he difficulty of the proposed works to be conducted insitu is unique and unprecedented,” the department wrote in a document, which will be discussed in the panel meeting next Wednesday.
The proposed expansion came after Hong Kong revamped its electoral system last May, adding 20 seats to the 70-seat legislature. The amendment plunged the ratio of directly elected lawmakers to a “historic low,” political analysts said, while all 90 incumbent legislators passed a national security vetting and were certified as “patriots” by the government.
The ASD cited an “extremely compressed timeframe” of the project, saying the first phrase of the expansion had to be completed within three years by mid-2025. The construction work inside the legislature also incurred a greater cost owing to the “additional and comprehensive protection measures” that had to be put in place to ensure the safety of the lawmakers, staff members and other users of the complex.
The government proposed to reduce the contingency fund for the project by HK$53.2 million as a way of offsetting the increased estimated cost.
Chairman of the Public Works Subcommittee Lo Wai-kwok said on RTHK on Friday morning that he would not describe the expansion project as “overbudget,” as the construction has yet to get underway.
The politician from Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong said lawmakers would question why the government estimate differed from the tender prices in the upcoming meeting. It would be unlikely for the panel to reject the granting of additional funds, however, as Lo said the expansion “must be done.”
“If it is the reality, then there is no way not to approve this amount of money,” he said.
Support press freedom & help us surpass 1,000 monthly Patrons: 100% independent, governed by an ethics code & not-for-profit, Hong Kong Free Press is #PressingOn with impartial, award-winning, frontline coverage.