independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Only 20pc of Reilly appointees chosen through process

DR JAMES Reilly has appointed 311 people to State boards since he became Minister for Health in 2011 – but only a fifth of these were selected through the Government's much vaunted public advertising process.

The Minister, who has bestowed more State directorships on the great and good of Irish life than any of his colleagues, promoted a number of people with Fine Gael connections.

They include Linda O'Shea Farren, an adviser to the former Fine Gael minister, Nora Owen, to the health watchdog, the Health Information and Quality Authority.

Ms O'Shea Farren, a former lawyer, was appointed in February.

He appointed an unsuccessful Fine Gael general election candidate and food law expert, Raymond O'Rourke, to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and a Fine Gael councillor, Ruari McGinley, to the board of St James Hospital in Dublin.

But he also re-appointed advisers who worked for his Progressive Democrat predecessor, Mary Harney. Katherine Bulbulia, Ms Harney's programme manager, was re-appointed to the board of the Medical Council earlier this year while Derek Cunningham, her former press adviser, was appointed to the Food Safety Authority last year.

The Government promised to be transparent in appointing people to State boards, and set up a new appointments process that opened up directorships to members of the public.

Figures released to the Sunday Independent show that only 61 appointments to State boards were of people who had applied to advertised positions. Around half of the remaining appointments were made directly by the Minister for Health and 99 were nominated by various organisations.

From taking up office to June this year, the Minister Reilly appointed some 252 people and he has appointed 59 people to State boards since then.

While public servants are not allowed to be paid for sitting on State boards, other directors can claim fees of €5,985 up to €14,963 a year, depending on the type of board they sit on. Chairs of the board are entitled to claim up to €29,888 a year.

The Hepatitis C and HIV Compensation Tribunal – comprised mainly of lawyers – is an exception. State appointees get a fee of €10,000 on joining the board and a daily rate of €845.

The members include Henry Murphy, who was a barrister with the Mahon tribunal and is also the father of Eoghan Murphy, a Fine Gael TD.

Various business and lobby groups have pressed for more transparency in appointments to State boards, including the Institute of Directors.

The institute surveyed directors last year and found that three-quarters of them did not believe the process was fair or transparent.

A spokesperson said more than 45 bodies came under the auspices of the Department of Health, including six new agencies which required the appointments of 62 people to their boards.

Boards on other bodies such the Medical Council, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland, various hospitals, the HSE and others, have been replaced with new directors, because of memberships expiring or resignations, accounting for a further 224 appointments.

Sunday Independent

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