The Office of the Ombudsman for the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces was created in 1998 with a mandate to conduct independent investigations into the concerns of military personnel, civilian employees and their families. The audit covered the period of February 2009 to August 2014, coinciding with the terms of two different ombudsmen.
We found that during the tenure of the first of these two ombudsmen, the Office had in place inadequate controls for managing finances, contracts and human resources in compliance with government rules and policies, and that existing controls were overridden by management. For example, in many cases between 2009 and 2013, the Ombudsman’s Office did not follow rules related to the approval and disclosure of travel and hospitality expenses, or to the approval of contracts.
We also found that the first of the two ombudsmen and some senior managers did not respect the Values and Ethics Code. This resulted in grievances, complaints and high levels of sick leave and turnover. These issues, combined with a lack of standard procedures for conducting investigations, contributed to delays in processing investigations. After 2012, the workplace environment stabilized, and efforts to close long-standing files were successful.
National Defence’s monitoring was insufficient to ensure that government rules and policies were being followed in the Ombudsman’s Office, and the Department did not fully address employee complaints about workplace issues filed investigations are carried out independently from National Defence but the Office’s staff and budget reside with the Department, the organizational relationship with National Defence is a complex one, and one that needs to be better defined to ensure adequate monitoring in all areas.
Though we saw evidence that controls have improved, the Ombudsman’s Office and National Defence must work to define their respective roles and responsibilities to prevent a reoccurrence of issues such as those noted in our report.