Government departments were yesterday given an official 'slap in the face' by the Ombudsman after they argued for 17 months over who was responsible for carrying out repairs to a wall outside a house. An Ombudsman's investigation concluded that a complaint by the resident who waited nearly two years for the repairs to be carried out next to his home was partially substantiated and the case had been poorly handled. Ombudsman Alice Tai Yuen-ying said: 'Our conclusion is: please make improvements, we don't accept it - otherwise we wouldn't be giving them a big slap in the face publicly.' The resident lodged a complaint with the Drainage Services Department in June 2000 pointing out that the stream bank adjacent to his house had been seriously eroded. After a site inspection, the department told the man that his request had been referred to the district office of the Home Affairs Department for action. But the district office refused to repair the site because its local public works funds could not be used for the benefit of individuals. Chief investigation officer Matthew Chan Ming-ki said: 'Ironically, after 17 months of argument, the circular was found to be inapplicable to the case as the stream bank was later defined as a retaining wall.' Mr Chan said that the district office asked the Lands Department to check the ownership of the lot in November 2000, and asked the department to liaise with the licensee of the site to strengthen the foundation of the bank in June 2001. The Lands Department finally consulted government civil engineers, who confirmed in November 2001, that the retaining wall needed urgent repairs and the Lands Department should be responsible. The wall was repaired in March last year. The Ombudsman's investigation report said although there was no evidence of wilful or deliberate disregard of duties, the office was disappointed by the departments' compartmental mentality.