Ombudsman promotes Code on Access to Information (with photos)

The following is issued on behalf of the Office of The Ombudsman:

     The Ombudsman, Ms Connie Lau, announced today (April 20) that a new section dedicated to complaint cases relating to the Code on Access to Information has been added to the website of the Office of The Ombudsman. It is hoped that this section will help to enhance understanding of the meaning and contents of the Code by government departments, public organisations and the public.

     At today's joint press conference with Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) for launching the television programme "The Ombudsman 5-minuter", Ms Lau said, "The Code's basic spirit is to provide as far as possible information requested by the public so that an open and transparent public administration system can be achieved. One of the specific functions of The Ombudsman is to monitor compliance with the Code by government departments and public organisations in order to ensure that public requests for information would not be unreasonably refused. From complaint cases handled in the past, we noted that some departments and organisations were not conversant enough with the requirements of the Code. Some have even failed to adhere to the spirit of openness and transparency advocated by the Code."

     In the past three years (i.e. between April 1, 2013, and March 31, 2016), the Office received 180 complaints relating to the Code and concluded 148 after investigation. In more than half of the cases concluded (79 cases), the departments/organisations under complaint were found to have inadequacies in handling requests for information.

     The more common problems include failure to follow the Code and apprise the requesters of the reasons for refusing to provide information, wrong interpretation or citation of the reasons for refusing to release information under the Code, and delay or impropriety in handling requests for information.

     Ms Lau pointed out that the new section on Code cases on the Office's website recounts in simple terms some complaint cases investigated by the Office. The aim is to help the public to understand better their right to information kept by government departments/public organisations. The cases selected also serve as a reminder to government departments and organisations that to keep public complaints at bay, they should avoid unreasonably refusing to disclose information, or wrongly citing the Code to justify their refusals. Hopefully, with the publication of more case summaries, the new section would become in time a repository of reference materials on the subject of access to information.

     Furthermore, the Office has specially collaborated with RTHK to produce a TV mini-series called "The Ombudsman 5-minuter". One of the episodes is actually based on a Code case.

     "The Ombudsman 5-minuter" comprises  five short episodes, each of which, in sequence of broadcast date, covers one of the following subjects: The Ombudsman's jurisdiction, direct investigation, secrecy and privacy, the Code and mediation. Set to start on April 24, the mini-series will be broadcast on five consecutive Sundays on RTHK Channel 31 at 6.55pm and on TVB Jade Channel at 3.50pm (3.20pm in May).

Ends/Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Issued at HKT 17:05