The new South African military ombud, retired Lieutenant General Vusi Masondo, was officially sworn in today (Friday, 8 November) and has the proverbial mountain to climb if the latest Ombud annual report is any measure.
The Office of the Military Ombud, previously headed by retired Lieutenant General Temba Matanzima, set itself 11 performance targets for the 2018/19 financial year according to the report. Only three were achieved – a 27% performance. Another crucial target not achieved was 47% in finalising written complaints to the Ombud office.
This, according to the Ombud, was largely as a result of “delays in timely responses by the SA National Defence Force (SANDF)”. Suggestions are for the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) to “engage” the defence force on this issue and to see what measures can be put in place to ensure better performance.
In the past seven years the Military Ombud has registered 2 444 complaints. At the start of the 2018/19 financial year, 135 cases were carried forward from the previous year and another 390 cases were registered in the current reporting term. This made a total of 525 “active” cases of which 246 were finalised leaving 279 pending.
The 246 cases finalised in 2018/19 is significantly lower than the 664 finalised in 2017/18.
Major reasons given for case finalisation are complaint dismissed (63), complaint upheld (26), grievance procedure not followed 46, not a condition of service (39) and case referred to “appropriate public institution” (45).
Of the 26 cases upheld, 14 recommendations were made with seven implemented by the Department of Defence, two not implemented and the last two are pending implementation. A further three reports were referred back to the Ombud by Defence and Military Veterans Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
Problems with pay are the biggest cause of soldiers complaining to the Ombud with 90 registered as remuneration cases in the period under review. Other complaints relate to utilisation and placement (77), service termination (74), service benefits and working environment (66), promotion and demotion (40) and grievance/disciplinary procedures (15).