Audit on attendance of prison officers finds glaring issues including one staff member off duty for five years before being dismissed

Concerns were raised over how the Irish Prison Service manages officers who take excessive sick leave with one staff member off duty for five years before they were dismissed from their job.

An internal audit looked at 99 cases where disciplinary action was instituted against staff who were frequently absent, and found issues in how more than 70% of the cases were handled.

It found cases where evidence to support the decision to issue a warning letter was not kept properly and where monitoring of attendance of those already given a formal warning was not done in time.

The report explained: “In one example, a period of four years had passed between the issues of an ‘A’ warning letter and ‘B’ warning letter despite continued poor attendance.”

It also found that in 21 cases – where poor attendance continued even after a first warning – no further warning letter had issued to the prison officer involved.

In one case, a prison officer was issued with a letter in September 2018 but were permitted to take part in an intervention programme.

However, by the time the case was examined in 2020, the staff member’s performance had not improved with the Irish Prison Service proposing another warning.

The audit remarked: “An intervention programme is expected to last three to four months, not two years.”

In another case, a letter was issued to a prison officer in October 2018 who told bosses they instead planned to avail of ill-health retirement.

“It is noted that the officer did not retire until July 2019, some nine months after the letter was issued,” said the report.

A third case found that a disciplinary letter was issued to a prison officer in May 2019; however, dismissal did not take place until June 2020.

The report said: “The officer had been absent from their post since 2015.”