Tuesday 28 March 2017

Ross 'has power to end logjam on jobs with simple request'

Transport Minister Shane Ross Picture: Tom Burke
Transport Minister Shane Ross Picture: Tom Burke
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Transport Minister Shane Ross could end the appointments logjam in his department by requesting a more specific shortlist of candidates, according to sources familiar with the process.

The minister is refusing to fill 36 vacancies on State boards 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.

However, the guidelines for appointing members of State boards gives the minister wide-ranging powers over the Public Appointments Service (PAS).

They require the PAS to ensure the minister is provided with a "sufficient number of suitable candidates to allow the Minister to exercise appropriate choice in his or her decision-making".

Sources say previous ministers have engaged with the PAS to request a limit on the number of CVs arriving on their desk.

Mr Ross said yesterday that he had been given as many as 33 names for two positions.

"That is just not satisfactory. I can't make a choice like this," he said.

"I've put in some very detailed, possible reforms so that this would be ended. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform are now looking at this and new guidelines should be out within a few weeks."

Labour Party senator Kevin Humphreys, who quizzed Mr Ross on the issue in the Seanad last week, told the Irish Independent he believes the minister is "absolutely wrong" about the need for a new system.

"He doesn't understand," the former Minister of State claimed.

"He's saying he was sent up whole lists of stuff. He's not consulting the public service."

Mr Humphreys noted that some of the outstanding appointments date to the previous government as Mr Ross and others had insisted they didn't want "farewell appointments" in the build-up to the election.

"He hasn't been prepared to make any decisions. I raised issues about appointments to the Road Safety Authority.

"He was so bombastic, there was very little time for real input from the Seanad. It's quite obvious at this stage that he has not mastered his brief yet when he's giving misleading information to the Seanad," Mr Humphreys said.

Fianna Fáil's Robert Troy also rejected calls for the PAS to be reformed. "It is an independent body which is used to make appointments right across the public service. Minister Ross has no credible excuse for failing to take on board its recommendations," he said, adding that Mr Ross had been "paralysed by indecision".

Irish Independent

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