Finance Bureau have pledged to provide an enabling environment in order to facilitate bureaux and departments to deliver enhanced productivity. In response to the comments and concerns received during the EPP Ambassador's visits conducted last October to December, we have introduced a range of new measures to liberalise existing regulations, devolve more authorities to bureaux and departments, and streamline procedures, where appropriate. We are confident that with the new measures, bureaux and departments would have greater flexibility in discharging their various functions.
Procurement of Stores and Services
In order to give bureaux and departments greater flexibility and authorities to conduct procurement, we have announced a wide range of revised financial limits and authorities for government procurement in Financial Circular No. 7/99. The main changes made include- 

* Thresholds for procurement without recourse to tender
The thresholds for procurement without going through the tendering process are raised to $1.3 million for stores and services (including consultancy services) and $3 million for construction and engineering works. 

* Direct Purchase Authority (DPA)
The DPA for bureaux and departments to procure stores has been significantly increased. The DPA for 78% of bureaux and departments has been increased tenfold, and for the rest, it has been increased over six or eight times. For example, the DPA for bureaux and departments without Supplies Officer Grade staff has been increased from $50,000 to $500,000.

* Contract variation
We have raised the financial thresholds for bureaux and departments to deal with contract variations to reflect the new DPA limits, and introduced a new schedule of sub-delegation within bureaux and departments so that the Controlling Officers can be relieved from approving low-value variations. 

* Help desk
The Government Supplies Department (GSD) has set up a help desk (telephone number : 2231 5232) to assist bureaux and departments in procurement and tendering matters as promulgated in GSD Circular No. 5/99 of 7 May 1999. Briefings on the revised financial limits were arranged for bureaux and departments on 27 May 1999.
Accommodation Matters
On accommodation matters, in order to provide better services to user departments, we have introduced the following changes in May -

* Streamlined procedures for fitting- out works 
The approving authority over fitting-out works has been transferred from the Government Property Agency (GPA) to the Property Services Branch (PSB) of the Architectural Services Department with effect from 1 May 1999. PSB will from now on provide one-stop advice to bureaux and departments on their internal fitting-out plans, timetable and budget. Once the overall space entitlement for new office accommodation is confirmed by GPA, bureaux and departments can directly liaise with PSB on all matters related to their fitting-out plans. 

* Flexibility for bureaux and departments to determine internal partitioning
Within the approved overall space allocation and budgetary cost estimate, bureaux and departments have the flexibility to vary the size of individual rooms up to 20% of the officer's space entitlement and 25% of the approved accommodation provision for ancillary facilities to suit their operational needs, subject to the feasibility advice of PSB.

Details of the above new arrangements are set out in Architectural Services Department Accounting Circular No. 1/99 of 1 May 1999. PSB and GPA will jointly host a briefing session in June to explain the new procedures. We will issue invitation to bureaux and departments in due course.

* On-site maintenance service
GPA launched a six-month pilot scheme on 1 April 1999 to make use of the services of on-site Private Management Agents (PMAs) for minor repair works below $15,000 in the internal areas of selected joint-user office buildings. Bureaux and departments in these buildings can now call these PMAs for minor repairs, such as fixing up broken doors, locks and clogged drains. Similar pilot arrangements were extended to some quarters buildings on 1 May 1999. Depending on the outcome of the pilot scheme, we will consider whether this scheme should be rolled out to other buildings.
Printing Services
In the past, bureaux and departments had to place all kinds of printing orders with the Printing Department, and were required to seek Government Printer's prior approval before contracting out any printing jobs. This was time-consuming and inflexible to meet some urgent operational needs, such as the printing of posters, publicity pamphlets and booklets for promotional campaigns. To address this, bureaux and departments have been given Direct Printing Authority (DPA) since last July to procure from outside contractors non-classified printing items of up to $10,000. We are now reviewing the effectiveness and acceptability of this arrangement in order to decide whether the DPA limit should be further raised.

Government Land Transport
To further improve customer service, the Government Land Transport Agency (GLTA) provides a one-stop service in booking pool transport with effect from 1 June 1999. Instead of having to make separate enquiries for bookings in GLTA's two transport pools, bureaux and departments will only need to contact one single point for various kinds of transport services. Bookings can be made at telephone numbers 2802 0558 or 2582 4852 or facsimile number 2824 0955. Please refer to GLTA's memorandum to Bureaux Secretaries and Heads of Departments of 12 May 1999 on Pool Transport Centralised Booking System.

We will continue to explore various means to improve our services to user departments, and to provide a more enabling environment for them to operate efficiently and effectively. We also need your support and feedback. Please write to us if you have any views and ideas, either through the EPP Newsletter Team or to the E Division of Finance Bureau direct.

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