Hiring six key staff for ODCE a chaotic ‘disgrace’

Hiring six senior accountants for the Office of Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) took more than two years amid chaos over getting the jobs approved and advertised.

Hiring six key staff for ODCE a chaotic ‘disgrace’

At one stage, ODCE boss Ian Drennan said the entire process had been “nothing short of a disgrace” and that he was “mortified” about the prospect of a job advertisement filled with errors appearing in the national press.

The saga over getting the posts filled caused major discord within the office and also the Department of Jobs and Enterprise, records released under Freedom of Information have revealed.

The ODCE first came looking for the posts in April 2013 after Ian Drennan — who had recently been appointed the Director of Corporate Enforcement — carried out a staffing review at the office.

There was public disquiet at the time because the ODCE only had a single accountant available while dealing with major investigations.

A departmental submission said: “The situation arising where one of the main investigating agencies of those billion-euro events has only one accountant’s experience to call upon is an unacceptable situation.”

By February of 2014, sanction from the Department of Public Expenditure (DPER) was still not forthcoming, seven months after the ODCE had first come looking for extra staff. One email between civil servants said: “I consider that the delay by DPER in responding to requests for sanction is not acceptable. Enforcement bodies such as the ODCE… should not be starved of key skills which they have identified are necessary to enable them to fulfil their statutory mandates.”

By March, nothing had been done, with one email directly linking the delays in getting sanction to the banking crisis.

In May, the ODCE was contacted about cutting their costs by more than 6%. An email by the ODCE’s now head of insolvency, Conor O’Mahony, said the proposed cut could have a “material risk” on whether they could properly investigate and prosecute significant cases.

By June, a letter from then minister Richard Bruton was finally sent to the Department of Public Expenditure pleading the case for the extra accountants.

Sanction was not granted until October however, at which point the Department of Jobs began the process of getting the job hunt started.

By September, still nothing had happened and Ian Drennan wrote directly to the Department saying he was “anxious to progress this matter”.

A commitment was made that the jobs would be advertised early in November but in late November, when the text of the advertisement was circulated it was, according to the records, seriously problematic. One internal email said: “It would be an embarrassment to the Department if it were to be published as drafted.”

Mr Drennan was also furious and in an email said: “The manner in which this has been dealt with is nothing short of a disgrace.”

In another email, he said the advert made no sense and “reads as though it was drafted by a child”.

Kevin Prendergast, ODCE head of enforcement, said it did not even include a description of the job involved.

He wrote: “What will issue tomorrow is something of a slap in the face for us all.” The advert — with some of the mistakes corrected — did eventually appear and 46 people applied for the posts. In March 2016, the appointments finally went ahead after successful candidates were selected.

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