Conditions of service top complaints list to Military Ombud

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Dissatisfaction with and unhappiness about conditions of service in the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) topped the list of complaints – by far – to the Military Ombud Office in the 2022/23 financial year.

Eighty-eight percent of complaints brought to the attention of retired Lieutenant General Vusi Masondo and his staff in their EcoPark, Centurion, offices were service related, Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) heard. In category terms, servicemen and women felt justified in bringing attention to – in order of the number of complaints made – remuneration, service termination, “service benefits”, promotion/demotion, placement/utilisation, grievance and disciplinary procedures and the working environment.

Other complaints lodged related to “official conduct of an SANDF member”; education, training and development (ETD) with the ubiquitous “other” also listed in the 350 “cases” – the word Masondo used in his JSCD presentation.

All told 350 complaints/cases were lodged in the financial year under review with an 82% resolution rate. This, his presentation has it, is higher than the set annual performance target of 75% for “fair, economical and expeditious resolution” of written complaints.

“The 82% resolution is a key highlight in the performance of the office for the 2022/23 financial year,” parliamentarians were told.

On where complaints originated, Masondo’s presentation has it the majority – 200 – were lodged by serving SANDF personnel with 106 made by former personnel and the balance of 44 coming from the public.

Service-wise, the SA Army – the largest SANDF component, registered the most complaints – 218 – followed by the SA Air Force (SAAF) at 37, SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) at 22 and SA Navy (SAN) at 14. Five complaints came from the Military Police Division with Financial Management, Joint Operations, Defence Legal Services, Defence Intelligence and Defence Human Resources personnel also making use of Ombud services.

Rank-wise, the largest number of complaints came from non-commissioned officers (NCOs) at 143, 41% of the 307 total, with “other ranks” next highest at 65. Thirty-five senior officers sought Ombud assistance along with 21 officers, 18 warrant officers, three candidate officers as well as 22 “undefineds”.

In the previous financial year 343 cases, including 88 from the 2020/21 financial year, were dealt with by Ombud office staff.