How We Process Complaints
After assessing whether the complaints come within our statutory purview, and whether there is a prima facie case to warrant investigation, our Investigation Divisions will start processing pursuable cases; whereas for cases screened out, we will notify the complainants separately of the reasons for not pursuing their cases. Please refer to Performance Pledges for our service delivery in complaint handling.
If we notice some administrative faults on the part of departments/organisations after investigating the complaints, recommendations for improvement might be made, such as urging the departments/organisations to review a decision, streamline a faulty procedure or adopt other remedial measures.
Mode of Handling Complaints
Inquiry is often used to resolve general complaint cases. We will ask the organisation under complaint to provide information and collect other evidence and seek clarification from the complainant if necessary.
After examining all relevant information or evidence, we will present our findings to the complainant and the organisation. Where inadequacies on the part of the organisation are found, we may make suggestions to the organisation about how it can remedy the situation or improve its systems as appropriate. If deeper probing is needed, we may move on to full investigation.
Mediation is an efficient, non-adversarial and solution-focused means to resolve complaints involving minor or no maladministration. It aims to create a win-win situation for the disputing parties, and is a voluntary process that these parties agree to participate in.
Our investigation officer will act as an impartial facilitator, either in person or by phone, to help the complainant and the organisation discuss the problems, clarify misunderstanding, remove differences and explore possible options so as to resolve the complaint amicably. The end result will be a mutually acceptable settlement agreement. In case of unsuccessful mediation, we will assign another case officer to take over the complaint and examine it afresh to decide whether or what further action should be taken.
Full investigation is warranted if a complaint is complex, especially if it involves issues of principle, systemic flaws, gross injustice or serious maladministration.
In the process, we may examine documentary evidence, summon and interview witnesses, conduct site inspections, and consult our technical or professional advisers if necessary. After thorough investigation, we will produce a full investigation report and present to the complainant and the organisation concerned our findings and comments, and where applicable, our recommendations for possible remedies or improvements.
Re-assessment / Review Request
If your case is screened out…
You may make an appeal to us in writing with justifications within the specified time frame. We will re-assess such cases and consider your grounds to decide whether the case should be re-opened for further follow-up actions.
If you are dissatisfied with the findings / conclusions…
You may seek a review in writing with justifications and/or supporting information within the specified time frame. We will re-examine the case in detail and, where necessary, seek further information or comments from the organisation(s) under complaint. The Ombudsman will make a final decision on whether the original conclusion should be upheld or varied.
You may request re-assessment or review of your complaint cases no later than 6 months upon being notified of the decision/result. If you fail to meet this time frame, you are required to provide explanation(s) so that special consideration may be given. Generally, each complaint case will only be re-assessed or reviewed once.
Apart from requesting a review by us, you may also seek a judicial review of The Ombudsman’s decision.
We need full cooperation from complainants in the discharge of our functions. Hence, we have drawn up a Complainants Charter on our commitment in handling complaints as well as the complainants’ responsibilities in lodging a complaint.
- Handle complaints in a professional, impartial and efficient manner
- Keep complainants informed of the progress and outcome of our inquiries
- Explain our decisions clearly
- Protect complainants’ privacy
- Treat the public with courtesy and respect
If complainant is not satisfied with our findings?
Any complainant may write to us and state the grounds for a review of their cases. Any views on individual staff or our services may be directed to the Chief Manager of the Office. We will take follow-up action with professionalism and fairness.
- State clearly the issues of complaint
- Provide true and accurate information (including an account of events, the required information for verification of their identity and determination of their traceability, etc.) in a timely manner
- Cooperate in our inquiries
- Lodge complaints in a reasonable manner
- Treat our staff with courtesy and respect
If complainants are not cooperative, the progress and/or outcome of our inquiries may be affected. In such circumstances, we will take proper actions as appropriate, such as making our decision on the basis of available evidence or terminating the inquiry.
Notice to Visitors
We do not accept any act or behaviour that disrupts the operation of our Office or causes nuisance or disturbance to our staff or other people. We may stop providing service, or even ask visitors with such act or behavior to leave the premises and take other follow-up actions as appropriate.