Dáil debates

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Ceisteanna - Questions - Priority Questions

Appointments to State Boards

9:40 am

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin South, Independent)
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3. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of appointments he has made to State boards and State agencies since his appointment; the number who have gone through an interview process; the number who have been involved in an open competition for the positions; the number of appointments that have been publicly advertised; the gross cumulative value of the fees; and the average annual fee and ratio of males to females. [30332/14]

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin South, Independent)
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The purpose of this question is to establish, in the light of recent controversies about political appointments to State bodies, whether the Government is living up to its promise that it will advertise all State board positions, that it will ensure there is free competition for these positions, that the gender basis which it set for itself is being followed and that the public can be sure appointments are not being made on a political basis, that all appointments, particularly in this Department which deals with sensitive areas, are made on the basis of merit.

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Minister, Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation; Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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Since taking office, I have made 41 new appointments to the boards of agencies within my discretion. A further 67 were either reappointments or posts reserved under legislation for various representative groups. The Department advertised all board positions in the form of a group advertisement at the start of the year.

Of the new appointments made at my discretion, 28, or over two thirds, of those appointed were selected from those who had submitted an expression of interest in response to publicly advertised calls administered in conjunction with the Public Appointments Service. This process generated a strong response in terms of the number and quality of the expressions received. In all cases the expressions were evaluated having regard to the skills, expertise and experience being offered in the vacancy being filled. The gender breakdown was 50:50, with 14 men and 14 women being appointed.

As regards fees payable to chairpersons and board members, they are paid in line with the categories into which the agency falls under the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform's system. Of the agencies within my Department's remit, eight are deemed to be in category 2, for which the chairperson's fee is €20,250, while the fee for an ordinary member is €11,970.

The remaining four are deemed to be in category 3, for which the annual fees payable to the chairperson and ordinary board members are €11,970 and €7,695, respectively. The Deputy will wish to note that fees are not paid to all appointees. In some cases members may have opted to waive their fees, while some members will be subject to the one person one salary principle and others are departmental nominees who are not entitled to fees. The cumulative annual value of fees for the agencies based on their current composition is €200,070 payable to 11 chairpersons, an average of €18,188, and €847,305 payable to 84 board members, an average of €10,086.

9:50 am

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin South, Independent)
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The Minister successfully blinded me with science and I got lost when he began to speak about category this and that. I will read the printed version of his reply afterwards. I take it that while some of the positions have been advertised, others have not. I am particularly interested in the reappointments. What interview process or scrutiny did the reappointees undergo? Several of them were in IDA Ireland. Would it not have been more satisfactory if the Government had kept its promise that all appointments would be advertised and that prospective appointees come before Oireachtas committees to be subject to scrutiny by the Houses and the public? They would then be taken out of the political arena. The Minister knows what I am talking about; he has defended some of the more controversial appointments made recently in other Departments. Particularly where overseas investors and interests are concerned, I seek an assurance that all appointments in the future will be advertised and not be made on a political basis.

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Minister, Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation; Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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As I indicated, all posts are advertised. Two thirds of positions were filled by those who had responded to advertisements. However, as the Government's decision indicated, Ministers have to make decisions about suitability and, in some cases, an expression of interest does not yield the individuals required. In such cases, obviously, one needs to head hunt to fill these posts. That is appropriate.

In the case of reappointments, clearly some people have gained experience and are valuable additions to their boards. In regard to boards to which I have reappointed people such as the IDA Ireland board, the individuals concerned had lengthy and worthwhile experience and in no case would have served more than one term. I do not allow any person to serve more than two terms. My accountability to my colleagues and Oireachtas committees is open. The chairpersons whom I appoint all appear before committees for scrutiny. I consider it to be a transparent approach and I am happy to stand over the appointments I make.

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin South, Independent)
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What happened to the proposal which, I think, was accepted by the Government in respect of the large number of attendees at the global economic summit who volunteered, to great applause and approval, to work for nothing on State boards, thereby bringing an external influence to bear on State bodies and agencies? I presume this includes IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland. They would bring welcome expertise to these boards. Why have these appointments not materialised? They would take the matter out of the political arena and the individuals concerned could replace the reappointed members, which is a gap or loophole that is not subject to advertising. Perhaps we might make more appointments from people living overseas who have volunteered to bring their independence to the boards of semi-State bodies.

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Minister, Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation; Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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There are appointees from overseas on the boards and such appointments will continue to be made. Anyone who expresses an interest in a board will be considered, whether he or she volunteers at the global forum or by direct response to advertisements. There is an open trawl of persons who would be suitable. Clearly, only certain posts will become vacant every year and we have to consider the suitability of those who have applied on their respective merits. We consider all offers that come our way.