HONG Kong's first ombudsman, Arthur Garcia, has been told he is too old for the job and will be forced to step down in January. Mr Garcia, whose formal title is Commissioner for Administrative Complaints, received a letter from the Governor, Chris Patten, two weeks ago saying his contract would not be renewed. But Mr Garcia, 69, said: ''I like the job. I would like to stay on, but I'm not wanted. ''One of the reasons given is that I'm too old but I'm still very effective, very healthy,'' he said. The ombudsman's job is to investigate complaints of maladministration by government officials. Complaints must first be put to the Legislative Councillors' office which then refers them to the ombudsman. Mr Garcia was appointed in November 1988 on local contract terms to head the office, which opened in February 1989. Before taking up the position, Mr Garcia was one of the four High Court judges and had been a magistrate and judge for 30 years. He said he could not see any suitable candidate for his job and was not aware of any recently-retired High Court judge who was local and younger than he. A government spokesman confirmed Mr Garcia's appointment would terminate when his contract expired. Asked why the contract had not been renewed, the spokesman said: ''Mr Garcia will reach the age of 70 next year.'' He said one of the criteria was that the candidate be someone familiar with the operations of the Hong Kong Government, but not part of it. Mr Garcia said the most important requirement for an ombudsman was that he or she should be independent and impartial. It was also vital for the candidate to be a local and know Hong Kong. ''Very often the complainant is a Chinese and he feels much better if you can talk the issue over with him,'' he said. He also believed a person with a legal background was preferable, because the job required a good understanding of various legislation. Over the past few years, Mr Garcia has been calling for a number of changes to the office, including allowing the public to have direct access and empowering him to publish some of his findings. Some of the proposals were accepted by the administration and are now being vetted by legislators. Mr Garcia said that, were he allowed to stay longer, he would find ways to make his office more independent. One of them would be to make some of his investigators permanent. At present, his office's investigators have to return to the civil service after finishing their stay. Although none of the investigators had met any problems after returning to the civil service, Mr Garcia said it would be better to keep them because it took time to train an investigator. Mr Garcia said he planned to work as a volunteer and adviser to charity organisations.