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Ombudsman publishes latest issue of Annual Report

18 July 2017

The Ombudsman, Ms Connie Lau, today (July 18) released to the public her Annual Report 2017. The Report noted that most government departments are receptive to the recommendations for improvement made by the Office of The Ombudsman to address their inadequacies. The Report also highlighted the increasing number of complaints about access to information in the past few years. The number of related cases the Office received during the past year was at a record high. Meanwhile, the Office has continued with its efforts in promoting mediation in complaint handling while more resources have been deployed on direct investigations with reports published to enhance public understanding of the Office’s work.


Government departments readily accept recommendations


During the year, the Office made a total of 254 recommendations upon completion of its full investigations and direct investigations. Of these, a total of 214 (84.3 per cent) were accepted by the departments and public bodies concerned for implementation while 40 (15.7 per cent) were under consideration as at June 30, 2017.


Ms Lau said, “We act as a catalyst for change. In response to our investigations and recommendations, government departments and public bodies have introduced improvement measures to enhance the quality and efficiency of public administration. Over the years, most of our recommendations were accepted by the government departments and public bodies. There are also cases where our investigations have incited the government department or public body concerned to make improvements, even before we concluded the investigations and made our recommendations. This shows the positive effect that our investigations can achieve.”


The Office not only makes recommendations, but also monitors the progress of implementation until they are fully implemented. Where a government department or public body is found to have acted upon the recommendations inadequately, the Office would demand an explanation.


The Report also noted that notwithstanding the actions that have been taken following the Office’s recommendations, some problems cannot possibly be eradicated overnight. For instance, they might require substantial additional funding, policy formulation, government restructuring and even amendment of legislation. These would take time. Moreover, in the case of certain perennial problems, government departments are in a cat-and-mouse game with the offenders, who could constantly devise new ploys to circumvent the Government’s enhanced enforcement measures. Nevertheless, with concerted efforts from all parties, positive results would come about, as in the case of the enactment of the fixed penalty legislation on illegal shop front extension this year, which has helped significantly in tackling a longstanding problem.


Code on Access to Information


During the year, the Office received 85 complaints about access to information, which was a new record high in this category of complaints. Of these complaint cases, 72 were against government departments and public bodies covered by the Code on Access to Information. Failings on the part of government departments were found in 32 cases, with 16 involving unjustifiable refusal to release information to the public, and this warrants attention. Meanwhile, the Office concluded 13 complaint cases about requests for information made to public bodies not covered by the Code and failings were found in four of them.


Ms Lau said, “We received more complaints relating to access to information in recent years, against both government departments and public bodies covered by the Code and public bodies not bound by it. We consider it important for the Government to step up its pace in legislating to underpin citizens’ right of access to information.”


Apology legislation


The Office is a keen advocate of apology legislation and welcomes the passage of the Third Reading of the Apology Bill by the Legislative Council on July 13. The Ombudsman is appreciative of the Government’s effort in initiating the apology legislation. This year, in the 248 concluded cases where apologies were given by the organisations under complaint, 92.7 per cent (230 cases) were given in the course of or after intervention by the Office.




During the year, 133 cases were concluded by mediation, with 22 government departments and public bodies participating in resolving complaints by this method. In terms of the nature of complaint, most of the successfully mediated cases concerned complaints about delay/inaction, followed by errors or wrong advice/decision, and ineffective control. The average processing time was about 13.4 days, with 88.7 per cent of the cases completed within one month. Moreover, 91.7 per cent of the complainants and all of the participating departments / public bodies who had responded to the Office’s questionnaire survey considered the process to have achieved what they wanted.


Investigation work


During the year, the Office received 4,862 complaints, of which 218 were concluded by way of full investigation. The number of direct investigations completed this year reached a record high of 11, compared with eight in the previous year. Meanwhile, 15 direct investigations are still in progress.


The Office has always strived to maintain impartiality in conducting investigations, and has insisted on calling a spade a spade. Generally, direct investigation reports are published in one way or another. Where the actions of government departments or public bodies under investigation are found to be improper, the Office will surely comment on their inadequacies. However, if it turns out that members of the public actually have some kind of misunderstanding, the Office will point out the truth in the reports and exonerate the departments or bodies concerned.


Looking ahead


On the work of her Office in the year ahead, Ms Lau said, “We envisage that this Office’s investigation work will continue to contribute to improvement in public administration among government departments and public bodies. We will also continue to promote mediation, and further enhance our efficiency in handling enquiries and complaint cases. Meanwhile, we will maintain our efforts in conducting direct investigations, and enhance in various ways the transparency of our work. Through different publicity strategies and channels, we aim to foster better understanding by all sectors of the community of our work.”


Full text of the Annual Report can be viewed or downloaded from the Office of The Ombudsman website at