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The Ombudsman publishes latest Annual Report

16 July 2015

The Ombudsman, Ms Connie Lau, presented to the public today (16 July) her first Annual Report since assuming office in April 2014.  During the year under report, the number of complaint cases successfully concluded by way of mediation reached a record high of 138, an increase of 3.6 times over the previous year.

 

Mediation

 

During the year, a total of 25 organisations under complaint, as compared to 11 last year, voluntarily participated in mediation, showing that more organisations were receptive to resolving complaints by mediation.  In terms of the nature of complaint, most cases successfully mediated were complaints about delay, followed by complaints about errors or wrong advice/decisions and ineffective control.

 

Ms Connie Lau said, “We may decide to deal with a complaint by the speedier process of mediation if the subject matter of the complaint involves only minor, or even no maladministration.  The manpower thus saved can be deployed to full investigation on cases involving more serious maladministration, and to direct investigation for improving public organisations’ administrative systems, efficiency and procedures.”

 

Investigation

 

During the year, the number of enquiries the Office received stood at 12,940, the highest in the past five years, while 5,339 complaints were received.  We also completed 314 full investigations and seven direct investigations (“DIs”).

 

The issues examined in the seven DIs completed included the management of patient records by the Hospital Authority; enforcement actions against street obstruction by shops; regulation of guesthouses; monitoring of eligibility of existing public housing tenants; Education Bureau’s refusal to disclose teachers’ registration status; recovery of debts under the non-means-tested loan scheme; and regulation of refrigerants.

 

Upon completion of the full investigations and DIs, we made a total of 218 recommendations, of which 192 (88.1%) were accepted by the departments/organisations concerned for implementation, while 25 (11.5%) were still under consideration as at 30 June 2015.

 

Apology Legislation

 

On another front, The Ombudsman has all along encouraged Government departments and public organisations to adopt a more open mind towards making apologies.  Of the complaint cases handled by the Office, the organisations under complaint offered apologies in 275 cases, including 253 cases (92%) in which apologies were tendered after the Office’s intervention.  Among the cases successfully resolved by mediation, apologies were tendered by the organisations concerned to the complainants in 12 cases.

 

Ms Lau said, “We welcome Government’s recent initiative to launch a public consultation on the apology legislation.  The enactment of legislation will serve to protect individuals and organisations, enabling them to apologise without fear of incurring extra legal liabilities for doing so.  The making of apologies can help relieve complainants’ grievances, resolve disputes, restore mutual trust, and increase our social cohesion.”

 

Code on Access to Information

 

During the year, the Office concluded a total of 54 cases related to the Code on Access to Information (“the Code”), with faults found on the part of the organisations concerned in 22 cases.  Twelve cases involved unjustifiable refusal or imposing unnecessary conditions for release, wholly or partly, of the information requested.  By thoroughly investigating some complaints about withholding of information, the Office urged the organisations concerned to better understand the underlying spirit of enhanced transparency in public administration.

 

Looking Ahead

 

Outlining the Office’s work for the coming year, Ms Lau said, “To enhance the transparency of our DI work, we will publish as far as possible our findings in the form of DI reports on subjects that we have conducted an assessment.  We will closely follow new developments in Government’s proposal on the apology legislation, and continue to encourage public officers to be more forthcoming in making apologies where due.  The Office will also step up efforts in promoting among Government departments and public organisations the ideas and best practice in the Code.”

 

Office of The Ombudsman

 

16 July 2015

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