The Office of The Ombudsman is an independent statutory authority, set
up in 1989 under The Ombudsman Ordinance, to provide an avenue for reports
and investigation of grievances arising from administrative acts or omissions,
decisions and recommendations.
Since December 2001, the Office has been established
as a corporation sole, thus severing linkage with the Administration.
It has set up its administrative systems and recruits contract staff on
its own remuneration packages. For longer-term economy, it is now accommodated
at its purchased permanent office in Sheung Wan.
Directly responsible to the Chief Executive, The Ombudsman
serves as the community's monitor on government departments and public
bodies specified in the schedule to the ordinance. The aim is to ensure
bureaucratic constraints do not interfere with administrative fairness;
public authorities are readily accessible to the public;
abuse of power is prevented;
wrongs are righted;
facts are pointed out when public officers are unjustly accused;
human rights are protected; and
the public sector continues to improve quality, transparency and efficiency.
Two exceptions to the monitoring system are the Hong
Kong Police Force and the Independent Commission Against Corruption, both
of which have their own separate body for dealing with public complaints.
The 17 major public organisations in the schedule
are: the Airport Authority, Employees Retraining Board, Equal Opportunities
Commission, Hong Kong Arts Development Council, Hong Kong Examinations
and Assessment Authority, Hong Kong Housing Authority, Hong Kong Housing
Society, Hong Kong Monetary Authority, Hong Kong Sports Development Board,
Hospital Authority, Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation, Legislative Council
Secretariat, Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority, Office of the
Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, Securities and Futures Commission,
Urban Renewal Authority and Vocational Training Council.
Apart from investigating complaints, The Ombudsman
may initiate direct investigations of her own volition into matters of
public interest and widespread concern, and publish the reports. This
proactive and preventive approach aims at addressing problems affecting
a broad spectrum of the community. The direct investigations are particularly
useful in redressing administrative flaws of a systemic nature and addressing
fundamental problems or underlying causes for complaint.
Since 1994, when The Ombudsman was empowered to undertake
direct investigations, 45 such investigations have been completed —
six of them in 2003. These six concerned the following subjects:
the monitoring of charitable fund-raising activities by the Social
Welfare Department and the Television and Entertainment Licensing
the prevention of abuse of the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance
Scheme operated by the Social Welfare Department;
the Education and Manpower Bureau's enforcement of the Education
Ordinance in respect of universal basic education;
the role of the Home Affairs Department in facilitating the formation
of Owners' Corporations;
the assistance provided by the Home Affairs Department to owners
and Owners' Corporations in managing and maintaining their buildings;
the operation of the Integrated Call Centre by the Efficiency Unit
of the Chief Secretary for Administration's Office of the Government
The reports of all direct investigations have been
published and are available for public scrutiny at the Office's Resource
The Ombudsman Ordinance also empowers The Ombudsman
to investigate complaints of non-compliance with the Code on Access to
Information against government departments, including the Hong Kong Police
Force and the Independent Commission Against Corruption. The Ombudsman
is also empowered to act as an independent review body in respect of an
alleged breach of the code.
The Office received 12 320 enquiries
and 4 352 complaints in 2003, compared with 15 207
enquiries and 4 662 complaints in 2002. The areas attracting substantial
numbers of complaints were related to error, wrong advice or decision,
failure to follow procedures or delay, negligence or omission, disparity
in treatment, lack of response to complaints, staff attitude and ineffective
control. The departments or organisations receiving the most complaints
were: Housing Department, Home Affairs Department, Lands Department, Department
of Health, Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, Correctional Services
Department, Buildings Department, Hospital Authority, Transport Department
and Social Welfare Department. The very nature of their services has a
closer impact on the community and they have more direct, frequent and
extensive contact with members of the public.
Although The Ombudsman has no authority to enforce
her recommendations, over 95 per cent of the recommendations made have
been accepted by the organisations concerned.