The number of complaints against government departments rose by 6 per cent in the last tax year and jumped 25 per cent on the previous year, figures revealed yesterday. The annual report of the Ombudsman showed 4,661 complaints lodged in the last financial year, with the Housing Department having the dubious distinction of registering most, with 492 complaints. The Home Affairs Department was a distant second, with 364, followed by the Lands Department with 283. Ombudsman Alice Tai Yuen-ying said growing awareness of rights and a general atmosphere of discontent contributed to the rise. 'When the public is already in a bad mood, it is easily irritable,' she said. 'But on the whole I think government departments have generally co-operated well and been receptive to our references. The government accepts our recommendations in a majority of cases.' In an investigation of the enforcement of the Building Management Ordinance, the Ombudsman found the Home Affairs Bureau and the Housing Department deficient in protecting the rights of flat owners in private housing. 'When Sars broke out last March, the public came to realise the importance of the management of private buildings,' Ms Tai said. 'But we have found the government is not proactive and has never instituted prosecution despite specific requests in blatant breaches of the ordinance by building management committees.' In those cases, and others, enforcement action was a problem. 'I have seen several departments paying only lip service in discharging their duties, especially in enforcement action,' she said. Repeated serving of warnings without subsequent action, until they became 'empty threats', was a manifestation of this, she said. She also said that too often matters deemed 'low priority' sat on shelves for years as a delaying tactic. She warned government departments that 'we are watching'.