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Hong Kong government departments ‘fail to co-ordinate and are too slow when tackling problems’

Ombudsman’s annual report highlights problems in public administration and identifies the worst offenders

The Ombudsman has taken Hong Kong government departments to task for “inadequate co-ordination” that has led to persistent problems in public administration, while criticising their “slow pace” in follow-up action to resolve problems.

It found that when faced with problems officials were too quick to pass the buck to other departments or blame staff shortages for not taking action.

In releasing its annual report on Tuesday, the Ombudsman also revealed that 485 complaints were made against the Housing Department in the past year , followed by 420 complaints against the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and 261 for the Lands Department.

In total, the Ombudsman received 5,244 complaints in the past year, down slightly from 5,339 in the previous year. The Ombudsman has completed looking into 5,244 complaints, some of them brought forward from the previous year.

A total of 226 cases were more complex and thus required “full investigation”. Among them, 12.8 per cent were substantiated, 13.3 per cent partially substantiated, 62.8 per cent unsubstantiated, 9.8 per cent unsubstantiated but with inadequacies found, and 1.3 per cent inconclusive.

“In the course of our investigation, we have noticed that where solving a problem requires the input of more than one department, inadequate coordination is found among departments,” Ombudsman Connie Lau Yin-hing said.

“The problem is often left unattended and becomes nobody’s problem as every department would say they do not have sufficient power to handle it. And where more than one department can actually solve the problem without help from others, the responsibility for solving the problem is seen as belonging to others who are in a better position to tackle it.”

It was the second consecutive year that the Housing Department topped the list. But Lau said it was “not a surprise” that some departments received more complaints because some had more contact with the public.

Deputy Ombudsman So Kam-shing said common complaints to the Housing Department included poor estate management and a failure to tackle noise pollution.

Of the 20 full investigations into the Housing Department, two were substantiated, three partially substantiated, four unsubstantiated but with adequacies found, and 10 unsubstantiated.

The Housing Department replied that it had established procedures to handle cases being investigated by the Ombudsman.

“Each complaint is thoroughly investigated by the department before a reply is given to the complainant or the Ombudsman,” a spokesman said.

“Recommendations and suggestions for redressing grievances and/or improving administration quality made by the Ombudsman are critically considered in an open and positive manner.”

The department would continue to strive to improve in face of rising public expectations and take note of the Ombudsman’s views on its works, the spokesman said.
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