About this Office

The Ombudsman's Role and Jurisdiction


The Office of The Ombudsman was established in 1989 by The Ombudsman Ordinance ("the Ordinance"), Cap 397 of the Laws of Hong Kong, as the city's independent watchdog of public administration.

The Ombudsman has powers to:
  • investigate complaints from aggrieved persons about maladministration by the Government departments/agencies and public bodies listed in Part I of Schedule 1 to the Ordinance;
  • investigate complaints against Government departments/agencies for non-compliance with the Code on Access to Information, including for the organisations listed in Part II of Schedule 1
  • initiate direct investigation, of his volition, into issues of potentially wide public interest and concern
What is Maladministration
"Maladministration" means inefficient, bad or improper administration. It may take many forms, which include:
  • Abuse of power
  • Delay/inaction
  • Disparity in treatment, unfairness
  • Error, wrong advice/decision
  • Failure to follow procedures
  • Faulty procedures
  • Ineffective control
  • Lack of response/reply to complainant/enquirer
  • Negligence, omissions
  • Selective enforcement
  • Staff attitude
Actions not for Investigation
The actions stated in Schedule 2 of the Ordinance are not subject to The Ombudsman's investigation:
  • Security, defence or international relations
  • Legal proceedings or prosecution decisions
  • Exercise of powers to pardon criminals
  • Contractual or other commercial transactions
  • Personnel matters
  • Grant of honours, awards or privileges by Government
  • Actions by the Chief Executive personally
  • Imposition of variation of conditions of land grant
  • Actions in relation to Hong Kong Codes on Takeovers and Mergers and Share Repurchases
  • Crime prevention and investigation actions by Hong Kong Police Force or Independent Commission Against Corruption
Section 10(1) of the Ordinance also prescribes other circumstances under which The Ombudsman shall not conduct an investigation:
  • Complainant having knowledge of subject of complaint for more than two years
  • Complaint made anonymously
  • Complainant not identifiable or traceable
  • Complaint not made by person aggrieved or suitable representative
  • Subject of complaint and complainant having no connection with Hong Kong
  • Statutory right of appeal or remedy by way of legal proceedings (except judicial review) being available to complainant
Nevertheless, in the circumstances stated in section 10(2) of the Ordinance, The Ombudsman has discretion whether or not to conduct, or discontinue, an investigation:
  • Investigation of similar complaints before revealed no maladministration
  • Subject of complaint is trivial
  • Complaint is frivolous or vexations or is not made in good faith
  • Investigation is, for any other reason, unnecessary
Powers of Investigation and Recommendation

Under the Ordinance, The Ombudsman has a wide range of investigative powers: conducting inquiries, obtaining information and documents, summoning witnesses and inspecting premises of organisations under complaint.

While The Ombudsman's investigation shall not affect any action taken by the organisation under complaint or the organisation's power to take further action with respect to any decision which is subject to the investigation, The Ombudsman may report his findings and make recommendations for redress or improvement to the organisation.

Heads of organisations have a duty to report at regular intervals their progress of implementation of The Ombudsman's recommendations. We will monitor and keep track by correspondence.

Secrecy Requirement

The Ombudsman, staff and Advisers are all bound by law, under penalty of a fine and imprisonment, to maintain secrecy on all matters that come to our knowledge in the exercise and execution of our functions.

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