HONG KONG JULY 2018

HONG KONG  

 OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN, HONG KONG

    1. MEETING LEGISLATIVE COUNCILORS
        1.  Every year The Ombudsman of Hong Kong attends the Special Meeting of the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council to answer the Councilors’ enquiries on the Office’s Estimates of Expenditure for the new financial year as well as the work of the Office. This year, Ms Connie Lau, The Ombudsman of Hong Kong, met the Councilors on 16 April 2018.
        2. In response to the Councilors’ questions, Ms Connie Lau informed the Councilors that the Office makes a constant effort to review and improve its complaint handling procedures. In 2018-19, the Office will continue to promote the use of mediation to handle cases involving no or minor maladministration for reaching a speedier and more direct resolution. Resources thus saved can then be redeployed to direct investigations and full investigation of more complex complaint cases.
        3. The Office attaches great importance to developing the ability of investigation officers to resolve disputes and organises from time to time related workshops and training sessions. The Office has in place a sponsorship scheme to encourage investigation officers to attend more advanced mediation training courses and attain accreditation as mediators.
    2. DIRECT INVESTIGATION (DI) / OWN-MOTION REPORTS
          1.  The Ombudsman of Hong Kong announced the results of six direct investigations in the first half of 2018. These direct investigation reports have been uploaded to the official website at www.ombudsman.hk for public viewing.
          2. DI (i):Report on the support services provided by the Social Welfare Department (SWD) for persons with or suspected to have mental health problems and their families/carers and neighbours
              1.  The Ombudsman has examined at a macro level whether there are any inadequacies in the SWD’s mechanism for providing services and assistance to those in need through Integrated Community Centres for Mental Wellness (Wellness Centres) operated by non-governmental organisations in various districts.
              2.  In the course of the Office’s investigation, the SWD has adopted some improvement measures. The Office has further made five recommendations to the SWD.

          3.  DI (ii): Report on the Mechanism of the Food and Health Bureau and the Department of Health (DH) for Handling Smoking Offences
            1.  The Office receives from time to time public complaints against the Government’s ineffectiveness in combating illegal smoking. The investigation has identified a number of areas for improvement in the enforcement mechanism of the Tobacco Control Office(TCO)under DH, such as insufficient 3 inspections at night, thus missing the opportune time for enforcement; inadequate manpower, aggravated by a persistently high turnover rate of Tobacco Control Inspectors (TCIs), which has weakened the effectiveness of enforcement actions; TCO’s performance pledge falling short of public expectation; and the need to enhance the role of plain-clothes officers to complement the enforcement actions of TCIs.
            2.  The investigation shows that even some government departments cannot properly handle the illegal smoking problems in their own venues. It would therefore be difficult for government to encourage the venue managers in the private sector to support the tobacco control policy and to convince them to accept the Government’s proposal to amend the legislation for imposing criminal liabilities on venue managers regarding illegal smoking on their premises.
            3.  The Ombudsman has made 11 improvement recommendations to the Government.

          1. DI (iii): Report on Government’s Control over Fly-tipping of Construction Waste and Land filling Activities on Private Land
            1.  The Office has found inadequacies in the control by the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) and the Planning 4 Department (Plan D) over fly-tipping of construction waste and landfilling activities on private land: s EPD should have conducted more comprehensive and proactive inspections; s EPD has yet to implement the use of Global Positioning System for deterring fly-tipping despite years of study; s Plan D takes too long to enforce its Reinstatement Notices, its prosecution actions have little deterrent effect and it sometimes does not require filled fish ponds to be fully reinstated; and s inter-departmental coordination should be more proactive.