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Wednesday, July 13, 2016, 00:35

Watchdog blasts inadequate departmental coordination

By Li Yinze

HONG KONG - Inadequate coordination exists among government departments, the Office of the Ombudsman said in its annual report on Tuesday.

The office received 5,244 complaints from April 2015 until March 2016. More than 62 percent of these were found to be unsubstantiated after being investigated.

There have been complaints that the government tended to be compartmentalized, Ombudsman Connie Lau Yin-hing told a press conference on Tuesday. She noted that sometimes relevant government departments would turn down the requests of complainants by saying they did not have sufficient authority to handle these issues.

“The problem is therefore left unattended and becomes nobody’s problem,” Lau said.

In these buck-passing practices, one department states the responsibility for solving a problem lies more heavily with another department, but in fact, it can well tackle the issue by itself.

Citing controls of exhaust emissions as an example, the report said vehicles that passed the Transport Department’s annual examination might be caught by Environmental Protection Department for excessive exhaust emission. The two departments have implemented different emission control measures since 2014. This has lead to many public complaints.

The two departments receiving the largest number of complaints pursued and concluded are the Housing Department and the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, receiving 485 and 420 cases, respectively.

But the Office of the Ombudsman said the large numbers of complaints against frontline departments may not necessarily be due to poor performance. It explained that because the services of these departments had more to do with people’s everyday lives, people are more likely to file complaints.

The office made a total of 277 recommendations last year, 85 percent of which had been accepted by the relevant departments and organizations for implementation.

Deputy Ombudsman So Kam-shing said he hoped the government will take prompt action following these recommendations and after the conclusion of inquiries into the complaints.

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