THERE WAS A 70 per cent increase in the volume of complaints to the Office of the Pensions Ombudsman last year.
Paul Kenny’s annual report for 2012 shows 2,189 disputes being referred to his office last year, an increase from 1,221 the year before.
Kenny said his office was able to deal with the workload despite not having gained any extra staff in the last number of years.
In his report, he wrote that this arrangement was “not ideal, given that the number of complaints and enquiries is increasing.”
He also expressed concern about the length of time it was taking to process each complaint.
The average complaint now takes 127 weeks to fully complete an investigation, an increase from 113 weeks in 2011 and 81 weeks the previous year.
“Unfortunately, this is a direct result of the staffing embargo, over which he have no control,” he said.
The number of phone calls to the office – which often included queries from the public seeking advice on pension plans – more than doubled, from 822 to 1,705.
Social protection minister Joan Burton paid tribute to the work of the office.
“I note that the Office resolves many of the complaints at an early stage without putting people through unnecessary expense – an approach that I completely support,” she said.
The report is likely to be the last produced by the Office of the Pensions Ombudsman, which was earmarked for a merger with the office of the Financial Services Ombudsman in the recent OECD report on Ireland’s pensions system.
Kenny was due to retire this summer but is to remain in the office to oversee the merger process.
Burton suggested that any formal review of the state’s pensions systems following the OECD report – which could include the introduction of mandatory pensions – until the final court ruling in the case brought by the Waterford Crystal workers.
Earlier this year the European Court of Justice ruled that EU member states have an obligation to fund the pension schemes of private sector workers if their pension funds have become insolvent.
The case is now due back before the High Court for a final ruling.