FOREWORD
 

The Office of The Ombudsman developed in 1995 the Administrative Fairness Checklist which, though by no means exhaustive, has served as a basis for assessing standards of a fair and reasonable public administration.

The community and individual citizens of Hong Kong expect that all public officers, in providing a fair and reasonable public administration, will always perform their public duties to the highest possible standard. In this connection, certain good ethical administrative practices are necessary for observation by public officers. The purpose of this checklist is to provide, in a ready though by no means exhaustive form, general guidance on the good administrative ethical practices that are considered important by The Ombudsman. Most of these practices should be nothing new and should have already been practised by the public officers in addition to the legal provisions and administrative guidelines that are in force in their own organisation.

Decision makings and actions are assessed by two ethical extremes: those based on impartiality, fairness and transparency and the others on results, such as the cost benefit analysis, efficiency ratio, usefulness and flexibility. Rules and procedures must be adopted in such a way that they will promote citizen welfare rather than government convenience. The checklist also aims at changing some of the old public service culture through a stimulating code of ethics but care must be taken not to over-standardize lest the public officers' responsibility might be stripped and thus make a victim out of the citizens.

It is hoped that the checklist will assist public officers in the best performance of their public duties and the public administration in conducting good human resource management at a historical time when Hong Kong will shortly become the Special Administrative Region. organisations are encouraged to issue their own code drawing reference from the checklist. In this regard, a Code of Conduct developed for this Office is reproduced at the Annex for general reference.

 
ADMINISTRATIVE ETHICS CHECKLIST
 
1. Sense of Responsibility and Accountability
 
Are you performing your public duties to the best of your ability in accordance with the law, policy, goals, objectives, performance pledges, administrative procedures, instructions and orders of your organisation?
Have you made good and adequate supervision of the work of your subordinates and that you are accountable for their work?
Do you carry out promptly the legitimate instructions of your supervisors?
Are you accountable to your supervisors in respect of your work?
Do you act within your delegated authority or power?
 
2. Making of Decisions
 
Do you avoid undue delay in taking actions or making decisions?
Will your decision serve the legitimate interest of your clients or the public interest at large?
Do you ensure that your decision will not hinder or even harm someone, be it a client, a colleague or a third party? Are you reasonably satisfied that the people involved have been treated fairly, both now and in the long term?
Can you justify your decision before your clients, colleagues and the public, and can you explain it fairly, with the conviction that you have acted properly under the circumstances?
Do you allow people to use judgement, acknowledge a human does err, and consistently question the purpose and logic of your actions?
 
3. Honesty and Integrity
 
Are you acting with honesty, integrity and good faith?
Are you not afraid of admitting your mistakes and do you take positive steps to prevent their recurrence?
Will you never try to gain any improper or undue advantage (money, interest of any kind, privileged information, etc.) or influence, either directly or indirectly for you, your friends, family members or relatives with your public position and duties?
Do you always avoid explicit or potential conflicts of interest which might cause deviations from the good principles of honesty and integrity or bring your organisation into disrepute?
 
4. Professionalism and Public Interest
 
Are you committed to the service of others and in the public interest ahead of your personal interest?
Are you in constant search and gain of knowledge and expertise to enable you to perform your public duties to the best of your ability?
Have you always learned from actual working experience, that of yours and others, so that you can grow and develop through reflection on such experience?
Do you observe the ethical practices of your own profession?
Have you always considered a client's dissatisfaction as a possible means of improvement and not mere criticism?
Do you abide to the organisation's code of secrecy?
 
5. Courtesy, Equality and Equity
 
Do you treat your clients and colleagues with respect, courtesy, consideration and reason?
Do you avoid to discriminate or handle unfairly your clients and colleagues on grounds of race, sex, age, marital status, language, health, physical appearance, social status, religion, education, occupation, political belief, ability and sexual orientation?
 

6. Loyalty and Dedication

 
Do you understand the vision and mission of your organisation?
Do you act with loyalty and dedication to your job and your organisation?
Do you enjoy a sense of pride and dignity in your duties in serving the community?
Do you present yourself in the dress, appearance act and speech appropriate to your work?
Do you avoid conduct or behaviour which will damage the reputation or work of your organisation?
 
7. Economy and Environmental Consciousness
 
Are you mindful of avoiding the waste, abuse and misuse of public resources?
Are you conscious of the need and importance of preserving the environment?
 

Annex:
OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN
CODE OF CONDUCT

 

Preface
 

The establishment of the Office of The Ombudsman is to provide a channel for independent investigation of public complaints against administrative conduct, decisions and actions. The essential features of the Office are its independence, flexibility, credibility and accessibility.

The mission of The Ombudsman is to redress grievances and address issues arising from maladministration in the public sector by way of recommendatory oversight to bring about improvements in the standard and quality of services and to promote fairness in public administration. It is this prime obligation which demands the performance of the Office and the conduct and integrity of its staff to be of standards no less high than what its seeks on the part of the public sector in pursuit of this mission.

This Code of Conduct will be subject to a review on an annual basis.

 
Introduction
 

This Code of Conduct applies to The Ombudsman and all his staff. The Code is intended to provide general guidance to all staff who are expected to perform their duties to the highest level of integrity and professionalism. It is important that all efforts made by individual staff should adhere to the mission, vision and values of the Office and contribute towards its established goals and objectives.

The Code rests on ten basic principles which all staff should follow. It also sets out specific conduct in areas central to the exercise of The Ombudsman's functions and powers.

The Code in its present form is by no means exhaustive. It should be read in conjunction with The Ombudsman Ordinance, operational policy/procedures/guidelines and office instructions and general circulars that are in force or promulgated from time to time. It is the responsibility of individual staff to familiarize themselves with all of them as appertain to their duties.

 
Basic Principles
 
The public are entitled to bring their grievances to The Ombudsman for redress. It is reasonable for them to expect a high quality service from The Ombudsman which is characterised by -
 
vigorous pursuit of truth, without fear or favour
timely response and quality reporting in plain and simple language
equity and ease of access
procedural simplicity and fairness
attending to the public and organisations with courtesy and respect
absence of prejudgement, prejudice and private interests
faithful, diligent and professional discharge of duties and responsibilities
promotion of fairness in public administration
advancement of good administrative practices and ethical principles
efficient and effective use of resources
   
Compliance with the Law, Instructions and Policies
   

You are obliged to act in accordance with the provisions of The Ombudsman Ordinance and comply with the Office's administrative and operational policies, procedures, delegations and instructions in relation to complaint and human resource management. You are also subject to Government circulars and regulations, the applications of which are relevant to the efficient and effective operation of this Office.

You are to make yourself fully conversant with the enabling ordinance, manuals, circulars and instructions promulgated from time to time.

You should promptly carry out the legitimate instructions of your supervisors and give adequate guidance and support to your subordinates.

   

Personal Conduct

   

You are expected to act responsibly, and you will be held responsible for your own acts and omissions.

You should be honest, courteous, just and fair to colleagues, complainants and complainee organisations and treat them with respect. You should conduct yourself in a manner consistent with your position and refrain from engaging in conduct and/or behaviour that might bring discredit or embarrassment to the Office.

You must not discriminate against any colleagues, complainants and complainee organisations on grounds of race, nationality, sex, age, marital status, language, health, social status, religion, education, occupation, ability and political beliefs.

The Office has a prior call at all times on your abilities, efforts and attention. You should endeavour to do your utmost to achieve the highest possible standards in the performance of your duties. As a rule, no paid outside work is allowed without prior consent.

You should strive to avoid waste and misuse of resources. You have an obligation to help preserve the environment.

   
Professional Conduct
   

You have a duty to maintain a high level of professional competence and ethical practices commensurate with your profession. You should be committed and dedicated to the work of the Office and be in continuous search for improvements in your performance.

You should discharge your duties and responsibilities with care, diligence and thoroughness in accordance with the relevant legislative provisions as well as policies, procedures, instructions and practices issued by The Ombudsman from time to time with special attention to -

   
honesty and integrity
timeliness, accuracy and completeness
constructiveness and reasonableness
impartiality and procedural fairness
equity and natural justice
accountability and professionalism
conflicts of interest
confidentiality of information
   
Dress, Demeanour and Appearance
   
You are expected to maintain professional standards and demeanour and conform to the formality of duties in both dress and appearance
   

Information Security and Secrecy Provision

   

The success and integrity of the ombudsman system is built on public confidence and trust. Strict confidentiality must be maintained in respect of all information that come to your actual knowledge concerning complaints, complainants, enquiries received and investigations undertaken, in accordance with the secrecy provisions of The Ombudsman Ordinance.

   

Conflicts of Interest

   

Conflicts or potential conflicts of interest, which may be seen to improperly influence the impartial exercise of your duties, must be declared at the first available opportunity.

You may be relieved of your personal involvement in handling the complaint. General guidance on the definition of conflicts of interest, whether real or potential, and the declaration procedure are set out in the Office's General Circular.

   
Acceptance of Advantages, Gifts and Benefits
   

The soliciting and/or acceptance of advantages, gifts and benefits is subject to the prevailing Government circulars/regulations in force. As a general rule, you must not accept any advantage, gift or benefit that might be seen to have an impact on your work or could lead to an actual and apparent conflict between your private interests and your official position.

As a general rule, such offers should be declined unless it would be offensive to refuse. In such a case, you should report them and seek approval from The Ombudsman for their retention.

   
Media Enquiries and Public Comment
   

The Office is committed to an open policy for easy access to information by the media subject to the secrecy provision. All media enquiries should be referred to officers tasked with such responsibilities unless you are the officer designated to handle media enquiries in relation to certain specific issues.

You must not disclose any information unless it is normally given to the public seeking that information or it is already knowledge made public by way of its publication in the Office's annual reports, anonymised investigation reports, the monthly "OMBUDS News" and/or through speaking engagements, media interviews or other form of releases.

   

Breaches of the Code and Other Instructions

   

The Ombudsman attaches great importance to the full compliance of this Code of Conduct and the basic principles upon which the Code is developed. If a staff member is found to be in contravention of the Code (including any provisions of The Ombudsman Ordinance, regulations and circulars mentioned in this Code), be unsatisfactory in the performance of duties or be involved in behaviour that would bring this Office into disrepute, he/she may be liable to disciplinary actions.