Shane Ross will be allowed to not fill State board vacancies

Minister for Transport will be able to refuse to make appointments under new measures

Minister for Transport Shane Ross is to be allowed to refuse to fill vacancies on State boards. Photograph: Laura Hutton/Collins Photo Agency

Minister for Transport Shane Ross is to be allowed to refuse to fill vacancies on State boards. Photograph: Laura Hutton/Collins Photo Agency

 

Minister for Transport Shane Ross is to be allowed to refuse to fill vacancies on State boards.

Mr Ross has agreed new procedures for appointments to State boards with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

It is understood the measures will force boards to justify why current and future voids need to be filled.

If Mr Ross does not feel it is appropriate to make appointments he will be given the discretion to leave the position vacant.

The Minister has sent a memo to all officials in the Department of Transport outlining the new procedures.

The correspondence, seen by The Irish Times, says bodies under the department’s remit will be asked to review whether the vacancy should be filled and subsequently make a recommendation to the Minister.

They will be required to make a submission to Mr Ross which must include details of the board – including its statutory standing, current membership, current and upcoming vacancies and the views of the chair on whether there is a need to fill the position.

In the memo seen by The Irish Times, Mr Ross also outlines rigorous new procedures when there is agreement that an appointment is to be made.

If the position is to be filled the criteria must be as “tight and specific” as possible.

Recruitment process

“The criteria should be explicit and directed towards the expertise and experience required to meet the overall skills requirements of the board. The use of generic criteria only is to be avoided.” The Public Appointments Service (PAS) will still carry out the recruitment process including the interviews.

However, Mr Ross has asked the panels to include one or more representative from outside the public sector and that it returns the names of a minimal number of candidates to the Minister.

On receipt of the list of candidates Mr Ross will ask his department to carry out further assessments and recommend a ranking of the preferred appointments.

Interviews and formal meetings will be held and the chair of the board, the assistant secretary general of the department or an “independent person” will be allowed to hold additional engagements.

The memo adds: “These principles and new procedures will be reviewed from time to time, with the initial review being no later than 18 months following their introduction.”

Test their suitability

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has already issued guidelines on State board appointments.

Under these guidelines, the PAS advertises vacancies on the State boards portal. Assessment panels are used to examine all applications and test their suitability.

Each Government department is then notified of all candidates that meet the advertised criteria. Where a reappointment is proposed, the PAS process does not apply.

These will still apply to the Department of Transport but Mr Ross will have additional requirements now.

Mr Ross has been highly critical of the way board appointments are made and has requested changes to the process.

It is understood the Minister agreed these new measures with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and held discussions with the head of the PAS, Fiona Tierney.

There are 25 boards under Mr Ross’s remit, including the Road Safety Authority, Dublin Bus, Fáilte Ireland and Bus Éireann.

Mr Ross has yet to fill 35 vacancies on State boards since taking office including some that have been vacant since May.