Public's new government guardian is no insider

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 March, 2014, 3:15am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 March, 2014, 3:15am

A former Consumer Council chief will become the first ombudsman in 15 years to be appointed from outside the civil service.

Connie Lau Yin-hing, who joined the Consumer Council in 1974 and was its chief executive for five years before she retired in 2012, will succeed Alan Lai Nin as director of the Office of the Ombudsman, the independent watchdog overseeing public administration.

Lau said she believed that her background would reassure people that she would "do the job very independently and impartially". She did not expect civil servants to have any problems accepting her new position.

While Lai and his predecessor, Alice Tai Yuen-ying - who served from 1999 to 2009 - were both retired civil servants, Lau has never worked in government. Tai's predecessor, Andrew So Kwok-wing, was a legislator before his appointment in1994, but his term was not renewed after he was said to have embarrassed the government with his inquiry into the chaotic opening of the airport in 1998.

Asked whether she was worried about government departments not co-operating with her, Lau told the South China Morning Post : "I don't believe that civil servants will see things this way, because the Ombudsman is there to handle complaints and help the government improve … not to find faults in everything."

She said she was honoured to accept the job and "will do my utmost to serve the public by … [handling] public grievances against maladministration and [looking] into matters that are of public concern in an independent and impartial manner".

Announcing the appointment yesterday, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said in a statement: "[Lau's] distinguished career with the Consumer Council bears testimony to her professionalism and strong sense of fairness."

Leung also thanked Lai for his "seasoned leadership and strong commitment" over the past five years in the role.

Lau will resign from all other public posts, including the chairmanship of the United Nations International Advisory Group of Experts on Consumer Protection.