Majority of state board jobs go unadvertised

The majority of appointments to state boards in the past year were made by ministers without being advertised, despite Government promises to the contrary.

Almost 12 months ago, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said state board vacancies would be advertised to help attract new talent and end cronyism.

However, most ministers are overlooking their own transparency rules.

An analysis of the appointments made in the Coalition’s first year show just one-sixth, 61 out of 360, came from a publicly advertised process.

Health Minister James Reilly made 66 appointments which were not advertised. While he invited expressions of interest for the boards of the VHI, the Food Safety Authority and the Pharmaceutical Society, none of those vacancies were filled.

A further 68 board members were appointed by the Department of Education, but just two — Siobhán Harkin and Mary Canning, board members of the Higher Education Authority — had applied for advertised posts.

None of the six appointments made by Finance Minister Michael Noonan or the 15 decided by Brendan Howlin, the public expenditure minister, were advertised.

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton approved 31 appointments — of which three had applied to adverts.

The Public Appointments Service — through which new positions are supposed to be advertised — did not use the structure.

Nine members were appointed last September by Mr Bruton, who said the board had to be “representative of its client base” and include members of Government departments and public bodies.

“The majority of the board are therefore civil or public servants, nominated by the relevant minister. There is also a union representative nominated by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions,” he said.

Two external members were chosen by Mr Bruton “because of their expertise in strategic change and public service recruitment”.

He sought expressions of interest for the board of the IDA last summer, but recently appointed Alan Gray and Mary Campbell, and confirmed “neither appointment [had been] made using the new procedures”.

One example of where the rules were used successfully was in the Department of Social Protection, where Eugene McErlean — who blew the whistle on AIB overcharging — was chosen for a position on the Citizens Information Board.

Mr McErlean was one of 172 people who responded to invitations for expressions of interest last July.

In some cases, the failure to advertise positions was justified. For example, Mr Noonan appointed four experts to the Fiscal Advisory Council, which advises the Government on budgetary matters.

The council is part of the bailout agreement, and Mr Noonan said a high standard of economic expertise was needed.

Eighteen out of 44 board positions under the aegis of the Department of the Environment, and four of 23 in the Department of Agriculture, were publicly advertised.

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