Cabinet flouting rules on filling state jobs

The Government is flouting its rules on appointments to state boards, with more than two-thirds of positions filled without being advertised.

The figures are revealed in light of recent controversies over ministers appointing political associates to posts ahead of next week’s Cabinet reshuffle.

After entering office in March 2011, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said vacancies on the boards of state-funded bodies would be advertised to help attract new talent and end cronyism.

But an updated analysis by the Irish Examiner — based on information provided to Fianna Fáil’s Seán Fleming via parliamentary questions — shows most ministers are overlooking the rules.

Of around 1,300 positions in the past three years, 28% were filled through the publicly advertised process.

Of the 368 positions filled on boards that come under the Department of Health, 116 were selected by James Reilly, the health minister, 33 were publicly advertised, and the remainder were filled in other ways.

Of the 22 positions filled by Brendan Howlin, the public expenditure and reform minister, none were advertised. This includes the 14 people given positions on the Appointments Services Board, which was set up to centralise advertisements of such positions.

Mr Howlin said that there is “limited scope” for him to use the process because the board has to be representative of its client base and therefore made up of civil servants and union representatives.

In the Department of Jobs, 28 out of 41 positions were publicly advertised; in the Department of Agriculture it was 33 out of 103, and in the Department of Justice it was 54 out of 143.

In some cases, there are statutory requirements to fill the positions from certain professions, such as lawyers or unions.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar, whose department had the best record in adhering to the rules, said the Government has done “a hell of a lot” in changing the system but more needs to be done.

He suggested the Public Appointments Service should be given a role to “check over everyone” before they are appointed to state boards.

All positions under his department are advertised and half are filled in this way, he said. “You do have to be able to headhunt people and recruit people,” he said.

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte last week defended the appointment of a former Labour by-election candidate and a former Fine Gael TD to the board of Bord na Móna.

Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan came underfire earlier this week for appointing a defeated Labour councillor of 40 years, Jane Dillon Byrne, to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

Of some 95 state board positions filled by him in the past three years, 53 were publicly advertised, according to a response to a parliamentary question.

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton said she would like to see a greater use of the public appointment system. She successfully used the rules when Eugene McErlean — who blew the whistle on AIB over-charging — was chosen for a position on the Citizens Information Board.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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