Thursday 8 December 2016

'How in the name of God am I meant to make a selection?' - Transport Minister refuses to fill 36 jobs as he has too much discretion

Minister - 'How in the name of God am I meant to make a selection'

Published 21/11/2016 | 02:30

Mr Ross currently has 36 vacancies on his desk but has complained that the Public Appointments Service is sending him too many names to choose from. Photo: Tom Burke
Mr Ross currently has 36 vacancies on his desk but has complained that the Public Appointments Service is sending him too many names to choose from. Photo: Tom Burke

Transport Minister Shane Ross has failed to fill a single board vacancy under his remit since taking office over six months ago.

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The minister is refusing to make appointments because he believes the system in place for selecting candidates gives him too much ministerial discretion.

As a result key boards including the Road Safety Authority (RSA), Irish Rail, Dublin Bus, the Dublin Airport Authority, Transport Infrastructure Ireland, Fáilte Ireland and Sport Ireland are operating with depleted numbers.

Mr Ross currently has 36 vacancies on his desk but has complained that the Public Appointments Service (PAS) is sending him too many names to choose from.

Some of the gaps have now existed since before the General Election.

In relation to Sport Ireland, which has two vacancies, Mr Ross (right) was provided with a shortlist of 34 CVs after a competition run through publicjobs.ie.

"As minister, having looked through 34 names, how in the name of God am I meant to make a selection unless I interview all of the candidates, which I clearly cannot do?" he said.

It comes at a time when Mr Ross is in dispute with his Fine Gael colleagues over the potential appointment of new judges.

The Independent Alliance TD has said the Government should not fill any vacancies prior to new legislation on appointments being passed, but Fine Gael has insisted it does not want to leave the judiciary under-resourced.

Fianna Fáil's transport spokesman Robert Troy said the minister was "paralysed by indecision".

Mr Troy said: "He's in a position of influence so he can make changes to the system if he's not happy with it."

Mr Troy also noted yesterday was World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims and "we are in a scenario where the RSA board is one where positions remain vacant".

"These are key positions. If he doesn't believe they are then he should look at reducing the size of boards," Mr Troy said.

"If he thinks the board sizes are adequate, then why is he procrastinating and leaving them unfilled."

In the case of the RSA, Mr Ross was sent 21 names for two vacancies.

"I have made inquiries about this and as far as I know, not a single interview was held in that case," he told senators last week.

"In all cases in which the PAS makes selections for my department - I believe this is also true of other departments - the committee refuses to rank candidates and sends the applications to the minister in paper format only.

"I am not sure if the qualifications cited by candidates are verified before the minister makes a choice."

Mr Ross has made a number of reappointments to boards where they were at risk of failing to meet a quorum.

A spokesperson for the Department of Transport said the minister was "currently considering means by which the appointment process can be reformed".

"He is concerned the current system results in too great a ministerial discretion and he is therefore exploring ways to limit it," they said.

"In addition, several port boards are being gradually reduced due to the development of the national ports policy, which is resulting in the transfer of port ownership to local authorities."

However, Mr Troy said the boards should have "full membership so they can carry out their work in an effective manner". He added: "I'd ask Shane Ross to point to one concrete decision related to his brief that he's made since taking office."

Irish Independent

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