The Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) welcomes the Ombudsman's investigation report released today (September 19) on the arrangements concerning the booking and allocation of recreation and sports facilities managed by the department.
A departmental spokesman said, "We generally accept the recommendations made in the investigation report. We have conducted a comprehensive review on the mechanism regarding the booking and allocation of recreation and sports facilities and have since last year put in place a number of improvement measures."
To enhance the booking and allocation mechanism, LCSD has implemented the following measures since September last year:
* Telephone reservation has to be made at least three days in advance with payment made at least one day before the date of using the facilities. This serves to reduce the chance of hirers holding off payment after making telephone reservation, thus preventing others from using the reserved sessions of the facilities;
* Ceased to accept identity documents other than the Hong Kong identity card for online registration as Leisure Link Patrons, so as to prevent people from using different types of identity documents to register multiple accounts online for making bookings exceeding the quota set for individuals;
* Completed the first phase of the Leisure Link System (LLS) upgrade project in March this year, thereby easing network congestion - as a result, the number of online transactions processed during morning peak booking time has increased by over 50%, while the waiting time at booking counters has been reduced by 30%. The speed of online bookings will be further enhanced upon the completion of the second phase of the LLS system upgrade in mid-2013; and
* To curb unauthorised transfer of pre-booked leisure facilities, all venue staff are required to strictly enforce the check-in procedures by verifying the identity documents of the hirers when they sign in to ensure that they are genuine hirers.
The spokesman said apart from the above improvement measures that are already in place, the LCSD proposed to implement the following improvement measures in the coming two years, many of them were made in response to the recommendations of the Ombudsman:
* To shorten the advance booking period for individuals from the current 30 days to ten days. On the one hand, hirers can be more certain whether they can take up the hired session when they make the booking, thus reducing wastage of the facilities. On the other hand, touters will have less time to sell the hired facilities for profit, thereby curbing touting activities. After implementing the aforesaid measure, the notice period for cancelling bookings by organisations could also be reduced from the current 40 days to at least 20 days prior to the date of booking. This will better meet the operational needs of the organisations.
* To tighten the quota of fee charging facilities that can be booked by individuals during peak hours – a maximum of two sessions per day for the same type of facility can be booked by each individual, and only one session per day for the booking of turf soccer pitches.
* To cancel the "stand-by" arrangement for soccer pitches on a trial basis, in view of the relatively high "no show" and successful "stand-by" rates for soccer pitches.
* To impose penalties on individuals who breach or fail to observe booking regulations by disqualifying their pre-booking right for a certain period of time. These include:
(i) hirers who repeatedly fail to show up for their booked facilities within a certain period of time and without making prior cancellation;
(ii) hirers who engage in unauthorised transfer of user permits; and
(iii) hirers who abuse the use of concessionary fares in making bookings.
"We will consult the stakeholders and the District Councils on the above proposed measures. With their blessing, we shall commence the enhancement of the LLS for implementing the improvement measures. The enhancement projects are expected to complete in 2013/14," the spokesman said.
"To enhance the booking procedures, the department would simplify the procedures for cancellation of booked facilities by allowing Leisure Link Patrons to cancel their bookings online using their personal passwords. The related system improvement is expected to complete by end 2012. We also plan to introduce immediate payment for telephone booking in 2014/15 so that the payment methods for all LLS channels can be aligned," the spokesman added.
The spokesman said that the department formulated the "Booking procedures for the use of recreation and sports facilities" in 2002 and had since kept the guidelines under constant review to enable continuous enhancement of the booking arrangements. He stressed that the department had co-operated fully with the Ombudsman and assisted proactively in his investigation into the booking and allocation of leisure facilities in the past year, while implementing a number of improvement measures within a short span of time.
The spokesman said the LCSD would gauge the stakeholders' views on the proposed improvement measures after drawing up the details, and study the feasibility of the other recommendations made in the report such as providing e-services for booking non-fee charging recreation and sports facilities and reviewing the peak-hour booking quota for organisations including Home Affairs Bureau/ LCSD to enhance transparency.
Ends/Wednesday, September 19, 2012