Permanent Secretary failed to address significant under-representation on NIFRS board…

Yet more evidence that the Commissioner for Public Appointments is being casually sidelined (one former office holder) after the Minister excluded her from the appointment of directors to NI Water).

This time, with no minister in the job to take the flack it was Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly. The BBC reports:

The permanent health secretary made “substantive breaches” of the code overseeing ministerial public appointments when selecting board members for NI Fire and Rescue Service.

That was the finding of an investigation by the Commissioner for Public Appointments Judena Leslie.

She found a “lack of rationale or justification” for the appointments.

The report continues:

This is the first time that Mr Pengelly has had to authorise new appointments to a public body – in this case two non-executive lay member posts – on the board of the NI Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS).

When two of the applicants – a man and a woman who had been found suitable and were among the top three scoring candidates – were not appointed last October, they asked the commissioner to carry out separate investigations.

In her hard-hitting reports, the commissioner said that it was the responsibility of the Department of Health and Mr Pengelly “to ensure that these appointments are made fully in accordance with the code in the most transparent and justifiable manner”.

“This is particularly so in the current political circumstances. There were substantive breaches of the code in this appointment process accompanied by a lack of proper rationale and justifiable grounds for the appointments.”

There’s no evidence that the department tried to block the Commissioner, and it strongly denies there was any discrimination, but with a significant under-representation on the board of the NIFRS, the Commissioner said

“This leaves the waytwo of the applicants – a man and a woman who had been found suitable and were among the top three scoring candidates – were not appointed may have the motivated the decision making.”

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty