In response to The Ombudsman's Direct Investigation Report on Administration of the Code on Access to Information, which was released today (January 28), a spokesman for the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau (CMAB) said the bureau accepted the recommendations of the report.
"As an open and accountable Government, our established policy is to make available as much information as possible so that the public can better understand how the Government formulates and implements policies and can monitor the Government's performance more effectively," the spokesman said.
"The Government is committed to the proper implementation of and compliance with the code. Since the introduction of the code in March 1995 and up to the end of September 2009, government bureaus and departments have handled 25,125 requests under the code and 23,986 (95.5%) of them were met in full while 563 (2.2%) met in part; 576 (2.3%) were refused for reasons set out in the code. Experience so far demonstrates that the code provides an effective framework for the public to access a wide range of information held by the Government.
"We note that the report observes that some cases have not been handled satisfactorily. The report makes a number of recommendations for more effective administration of the code. The Government attaches great importance to the observations and recommendations. We will work with bureaus and departments to ensure appropriate follow-up actions on the various recommendations.
"At the same time, we note that The Ombudsman has recognised our efforts in stepping up training within the Government and has commended our enhanced efforts in promoting awareness of the code within the Government and in the community. We will continue our work in this regard.
"To enhance understanding of and compliance with the code, the CMAB has been organising various promotion and training programmes within the Government, such as issuing circular memoranda, frequently asked questions and precedent cases, including the code in relevant grades' regular training programmes, and organising briefings/training for Access to Information Officers (AIOs) and trainers of bureaus and departments.
"We will step up promotion and training within the Government. The measures include:
* More timely training for AIOs. Where appropriate, training will be conducted in a small group briefing format;
* Updating frequently asked questions and beefing up precedent cases for reference by relevant officers;
* Monitoring complaints lodged with The Ombudsman closely; and
* Working with bureaus and departments to organise more regular training for their staff.
"To enhance publicity, the CMAB will also add a Chinese version of the Guidelines on Interpretation and Application to the Government webpage on the code. We will also require all departments' homepages to introduce the code and to be hyperlinked to our webpage on the code.
"In addition, the CMAB has initiated other programmes to publicise the code. Such programmes include launching an Announcement in the Public Interest on television and radio and through the broadcasting systems in buses and railways, advertisement in Mass Transit Railway stations and posters in various government premises.
"We will also follow up with other public bodies within The Ombudsman's purview so that they can adopt the code or a similar guide."
"We will continue to monitor the implementation of the code closely and consider measures to further enhance the promotion of and compliance with the code as appropriate," the spokesman said.
Ends/Thursday, January 28, 2010