Ombudsman for Defence Forces Releases Fourth Annual Report

8 June 2010

The presence of the Office of Ombudsman for the Defence Forces has contributed to bringing about administrative reforms and changes in human resources management practices within Ireland’s Defence Forces.

According to the 2009 Annual Report of the Office of the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces (ODF), published today (08.06.10), the Minister for Defence and military authorities have agreed to review the process of appraisal reporting for enlisted personnel and non-commissioned officers, and have given support for the improvement in promotion selection processes.

Since the establishment of the ODF in 2005, the most recurring complaint to the Ombudsman by members of the Defence Forces has concerned the management of selection procedures for promotion. Last year, out of the 105 complaints dealt with by the ODF, 37 related to the administration of the selection procedures for promotions.

According to the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces, Paulyn Marrinan Quinn SC: “I am pleased to report that there is now significant support by the military authorities and the Minister for Defence to review processes in order to allay fears of unfairness. As a result of my recommendations, there is now initial support for selection boards to use a ‘marking matrix’ so that all candidates can have an objective measure of their performance at an interview.”

“Enhanced systems for offering candidates feedback after interview are being explored and, on a more specific note, Defence Force members now have a right to view information contained on their personal files which was not formerly the case. These changes to personnel and recruitment policies should go some way towards a reduction in the number of complaints of this nature,” said Ms. Marrinan Quinn.

In 2009, the caseload before the ODF remained almost static, with 105 investigations being undertaken. This was a decrease of just one case on the previous year. The ODF also examined 15 cases that were later deemed to be outside her remit.

The number of complaints under the main category headings was as follows:

• Selection Procedures for Promotion: 37.
• Alleged Inappropriate Behaviour / Bullying: 31.
• Selection for Career Courses: 14.
• Career-Related Administration Procedures: 11.
• Maladministration: 8.
• Selection Procedures for Overseas Service: 3.
• Conditions of employment / Pension Issues: 1.

Of the complaints investigated in 2009, the Ombudsman issued a final report to the Minister in respect of 31 cases. She upheld 74 per cent of the cases referred to her. It took an average of 129 days for the Minister for Defence to respond to the Ombudsman’s Final Reports; this is an increase of 40 days on the previous year. Last year, 38 provisional view reports were also issued.

Among the cases examined by the Ombudsman but which fell outside her jurisdiction six were disputes about pensions. According to Ms Marrinan Quinn, “I sought the assistance of the Pensions Ombudsman in an endeavour to establish whether he could intervene in these cases which I am excluded from reviewing. I am indebted to the Pensions Ombudsman, Paul Kenny, for his prompt response and cooperation in these cases.”

International interest in the ODF continued in 2009. At the invitation of the German Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces, the Ombudsman addressed the inaugural conference of Military Obudsman Institutions in Berlin. She also gave an address to an international audience at the United Nations Training School Ireland (UNTSI) at the Defence Forces Training Centre at the Curragh Camp on the subject of the protecting of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of members of armed forces. This address related to the Ombudsman’s work as a member of the Expert Group of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe which, in 2008, produced a handbook on human rights and fundamental freedoms of armed forces.

Commenting at today’s launch, Ms. Marrinan Quinn said: “After four years of operation of my Office, I thought it timely to include a review of the work of the first four years of establishing the ODF. I hope it is true to say that the Office of the ODF has won the trust of members of the Defence Forces. It is crucial that members of the Defence Forces are in no doubt that cases will be reviewed by an Ombudsman that is independent and impartial.

“I am pleased to attribute a significant part of the progress of the work of the Office to the leadership of the Irish Defence Forces. Leadership is the key to meaningful institutional change and reform. Since my appointment as Ombudsman for the Defence Forces, I have experienced not only open-mindedness but a willingness to engage with positive change from the two Chiefs of Staff who have held that post since 2005. It has been enlightening to witness such leadership in action over the critical phase of the start-up years of the Office,” she added.

ODF 2009 Annual Report Highlights

ODF 2009 Annual Report Full Report and Audio File