MINISTERS are filling up to half of all available state board jobs with their own private candidates despite the Government's pledge to open up the positions to the public.
Although the Government is accepting applications from public spirited citizens, new figures show that very few are actually succeeding in getting on to state boards.
And several ministers refused to reveal what – if any – qualifications their chosen few had obtained to perform their roles on the state boards.
The fees for serving on state boards generally range from around €3,000 to €15,000 per year.
Jobs Minister Richard Bruton has only filled 15 out of 64 positions with people who applied publicly for the positions – with many of the rest being filled automatically by either his own choices or representatives of unions and employers.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn filled more than three-quarters of state board vacancies in his department with people who had not applied publicly for the job. Just 12 out of 50 people appointed had applied publicly to his department for the jobs.
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar – who famously pledged to root out cronyism on state boards while in opposition – has one of the best records in Government, with 45 public appointments out of 96.
But that still means he has filled over half of the vacant state board positions with people who did not apply publicly for the jobs.
Independent TD Shane Ross, who obtained the figures, said the brave new world that the Government had promised for state board appointments was a "fraud".
"The public applications process is just a cover for ministers. At the end of the day, they have the power to appoint whoever they want and they are doing it. And the public applications process is being bypassed," he said.
And Health Minister Dr James Reilly has only appointed one out of the 40 people who applied for positions on the board of the Health and Information Quality Authority (HIQA). This was despite the fact that officials found that the vast majority of candidates were "of a high standard" and a "high calibre". He appointed two members who had not applied publicly and has left four positions vacant for almost one year.
Like other government ministers, Dr Reilly is insisting that he is not "confined" to filling vacant state board positions with people who have publicly applied for them.
Some appointments made by ministers are outside their control – for example, employers group IBEC and the unions' umbrella body ICTU have the legal right to nominate members to bodies such as the Labour Relations Commission. And other nominees are civil servants – who are paid no fee but have the job of keeping the minister informed of the state body's work.
Several ministers failed to answer parliamentary questions about how many public applicants they had appointed to state boards – and what the qualifications of the successful candidates were. These included:
• Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte (inset, far left), who recently appointed his former constituency organiser and programme manager Noel Ward to a €7,695 per year position on the board of Ordnance Survey Ireland – even though he had not applied publicly for the job.
• Environment Minister Phil Hogan (inset, left) appointed Fine Gael councillor Colm Brophy to the Housing Finance Agency last year.
He also appointed former Labour Party presidential candidate Adi Roche to the board of the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland.