Complaints against government departments soared in the year to June 30, with those against the Housing Department up 373 per cent, the ombudsman said yesterday. The overall increase in complaints was 230 per cent but this did not mean the Housing Department was the least competent of the government departments, he said. In his annual report tabled in the Legislative Council, the ombudsman Andrew So Kwok-hing said that for the first time more than half of the complaints investigated were justified, at least in part. Complaints fully substantiated rose 574 per cent to 104, and those partly substantiated were up 238 per cent to 93. Mr So, whose official title is the Commissioner for Administrative Complaints, said the increase was due to greater awareness and not a pre-1997 crisis in government. The Housing Department was 'the most co-operative department', he said. Complaints against it were high because 'it has the most contact with the public'. Among the complaints were officers giving confidential information to the wrong person, delays in giving refunds, and wrong information in a Home Ownership Scheme sales leaflet. The ombudsman singled out the Hospital Authority for criticism, saying it had wrongly claimed that complaints about treatment were outside his jurisdiction. 'If I can't investigate patient complaints why should the Government have put the authority under my jurisdiction? It's ridiculous,' Mr So said. In the year to June 30 there were 2,784 complaints from the public, of which 10 per cent were given full investigations. Of these about 39 per cent were substantiated and 35 per cent partially substantiated. Because of the high workload, the time for investigations has stretched from six months to 12 months. Complaints categorised as 'abuse of power' were highest against the Correctional Services Department, with 24 received. Mr So said unofficial Justices of the Peace, who often acted as prison visitors, were being encouraged to pass complaints to his office for action. The ombudsman can only investigate complaints about administration of policies, and not the policies themselves, and his findings are not binding.