THE ombudsman has ruled that the Housing Department mismanaged a fund for repairs and maintenance of a Tuen Mun estate. It was another setback for the department, which accounts for the largest number of complaints to the ombudsman, whose title is the Commissioner for Administrative Complaints. A group of Siu On Court owners had filed a 23-point complaint last year, accusing the department of mismanaging the fund, causing losses and huge increases in management fees. Complaints included the purchase of expensive water lilies, use of non-matching floor tiles in lift lobbies, and erection of useless U-shape railings. Commissioner Andrew So Kwok-wing concluded that only two out of the 23 allegations were substantiated: improper use of the fund for repairs to the ceiling in flats and a lack of professional knowledge on fire precautions. Another two allegations were partially substantiated. However, the ombudsman concluded 'the fact remained that the [department] had not properly managed the fund and allowed it to dwindle and fall to a deficit'. 'On this basis, this office considered that the [department] had failed, though also largely a result of the owners' unco-operative attitude and resistance, to properly manage and operate the fund and to ensure all necessary maintenance and repair works are done,' he said. Mr So strongly recommended that the department ask the owners if they wanted to take back the management of the Home Ownership Scheme estate and give them assistance for the formation of an owners' corporation. He said the department also had the responsibility to maintain a trusting and harmonious relationship with the owners for the benefit and interest of all tenants. In the report, he was astonished by the deep distrust of complainants in the management office. 'It was not clear to this office if the same degree of distrust was actually shared by the owners at large. 'Many of the allegations obviously arose from the distrust . . . and could have been resolved immediately with adequate explanations at meetings,' he said. Director of Housing Fung Tung said he accepted and would follow up all the recommendations. But he said the deficit was mainly due to the owners' reluctance to accept 'realistic reviews' of management fees.