Friday 24 March 2017

1,600 public positions filled despite ban

Lenihan approves three out of every five requests

Paul Melia

Paul Melia

More than 1,600 full-time jobs have been filled in the public service despite the recruitment ban -- and with the authorisation of Finance Minister Brian Lenihan.

Three in every five requests to fill jobs are being approved by the minister, even though exceptions to the recruitment embargo are only supposed to be made in "very limited circumstances".

The Department of Finance last night confirmed that some 769 posts had been approved in the civil service, and another 884 in state agencies.

Despite a cabinet decision in March last year to introduce the ban, new figures show that senior management positions in the civil service are being filled and staff continue to enjoy promotions.

Unnecessary

Although tax hikes and cuts in social welfare payments are looming in December's Budget, five judges have been allowed hire tipstaffs at salaries ranging from €407 to €567 a week despite the posts being identified by An Bord Snip Nua as being unnecessary.

Gardai and the Defence Forces have been allowed promote members, and an assistant city manager is currently being sought for Dublin City Council, on a salary of up to €105,000.

The embargo was introduced in March last year to help reduce the €20bn annual public sector pay bill, which made up 36pc of all government expenditure.

It came after continued growth in public sector numbers over the previous decade. An Bord Snip Nua has said the numbers employed swelled from 269,799 in 2001 to 316,656 in 2009 -- an increase of 46,857, or 17pc.

But positions continue to be filled despite IDA Ireland, the agency tasked with job creation, warning last month it could not do its job because it was being starved of staff and resources.

Chief executive Liam O'Mahony told Enterprise Minister Batt O'Keeffe that staff cuts had left the development agency unable to act on the biggest issue facing the country, at a time when more than 450,000 people were on the dole queues.

Figures from the Department of Finance show some 1,109 applications were made to the Department of Finance to approve posts in the civil service -- with 769, or 70pc, of them approved. Another 1,668 exemptions were sought in the public service, with 884 approved (53pc).

This is an overall average of 60pc, and it comes despite the Department of Finance writing to all public bodies last year saying that only in "very limited circumstances" would posts be filled.

"I am to direct that, with effect from the date of this letter to the end 2010, no public service post, however arising, may be filled by recruitment, promotion nor payment of an allowance for the performance of duties at a higher grade," the department said.

"Any exceptions to this principle, which will arise in very limited circumstances only, require the prior sanction of the Minister for Finance," it said.

Since the ban was introduced, some 2,300 staff have left the civil service. Of the 769 posts approved, 300 were filled by outside recruitment with the remainder "by way of redeployment or promotion".

Sanctioned

The additional 884 positions were sanctioned in other state agencies.

Some 550 staff have also been transferred to the Department of Social Protection to process dole payments, while 276 temporary posts have been created to conduct Census 2011.

The Department of Finance said last night the posts were approved only if the position could be justified.

"A business case has been made by the department (concerned) and Finance looked at the business case. If it stacked up, the exemption was granted," a spokesman said.

"A number of requests came in in relation to promotions, but the agreements in the vast majority of these cases was where a promotion was approved, their previous position would remain vacant. A number of posts would be in relation to specialist posts, where we couldn't redeploy someone."

Irish Independent

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