Hong Kong 2003
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Office of The Ombudsman

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 that:

  • 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 Authority;


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; and


the operation of the Integrated Call Centre by the Efficiency Unit of the Chief Secretary for Administration's Office of the Government Secretariat.

The reports of all direct investigations have been published and are available for public scrutiny at the Office's Resource Centre.

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.

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