Monday 22 January 2018

Noonan ignores jobs ban to help cabinet colleagues

From drivers to PAs, 86 staff requests approved

MAEVE SHEEHAN

THE Finance Minister has waived the ban on public sector recruitment to fill 132 posts across the civil and public service, including special advisers, drivers and personal assistants for his cabinet colleagues.

New figures show that in his first months in office, Michael Noonan approved appointments to 112 posts in the civil service and 20 in the wider public service despite a moratorium on recruitment to reduce the public sector wage bill.

Mr Noonan approved every request from his colleagues for ministerial staff, totalling 86 posts, some of which have yet to be filled. He refused requests for a head of human resources strategy and a crime analyst in the Garda Siochana.

Most of the posts were filled from within the ranks of the civil service by internal transfer but 14 new recruits will be hired at a time when the government is trying to shed up to 25,000 jobs by 2015.

In addition to the 132 posts, the minister approved the hiring of 40 temporary staff at the Central Statistics Office to work on Census 2011 and another 40 at state-training agency, Fas, to fill in for staff taking holidays.

The bulk of the posts filled were ministerial appointments. Ministers are entitled to a maximum of eight staff, including two drivers, a personal secretary and a personal assistant, and special advisers -- whose salaries range from €80,000 to €92,672.

Ministers of state are entitled to a staff of five and are allowed a special adviser only if they regularly attend cabinet meetings. The appointments must be sanctioned by the Finance Minister.

The ministerial recruitment drive was led by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, where approval was given for 14 ministerial appointments. The jobs included personal assistants, secretaries and drivers for Transport Minister Leo Varadkar and two junior transport ministers, Michael Ring and Alan Kelly. Mr Varadkar also appointed two special advisers.

A request from Taoiseach Enda Kenny for approval for nine ministerial appointments had still not been signed off by the start of this month.

Mr Noonan allowed himself three ministerial appointments, while he sanctioned eight appointments at Eamon Gilmore's Department of Foreign Affairs. Approval was given for 13 ministerial appointments at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, five of whom were appointed to work with Richard Bruton; 12 ministerial appointments were approved at the Department of Health, three of which were for the minister, James Reilly; eight at the Department of Agriculture, where Simon Coveney is minister.

Six ministerial appointments were approved at Pat Rabbitte's portfolio of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. Frances Fitzgerald, who is overseeing the disbandment of the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs, appointed a personal assistant and two special advisers, who will move with her to the Department of Children. Ruairi Quinn, the Minister for Education and Skills, was approved for two ministerial appointments, while Alan Shatter, the Minister for Justice, was approved for three.

Joan Burton, the Minister for Social Protection, sought approval for just one ministerial appointment, while Brendan Howlin, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, sought approval for three.

Four ministerial appointments were approved at the Office of Public Works, for which junior minister, Brian Hayes, is responsible. AG Maire Whelan appointed a special adviser of her own.

Details of the appointments were released by the minister to Fianna Fail. Sean Fleming, the spokesman on public sector reform, said the figures show that "the recruitment ban applies to everyone else in the public service except government ministers".

"As public service managers work within the recruitment ban and listen to ministers telling them to do more with less, they will be angry to learn that the same ministers have not had a single request for drivers, special advisers or additional secretaries refused," he said.

The latest figures show that public service staff numbers have fallen by between 2,500 and 3,000 since January. The numbers on the public payroll now stands at about 303,000.

Michael Noonan explained the appointments by saying that "there are occasions when a department needs to fill a post", either for legal reasons, safety reasons and to ensure continuity of services.

The moratorium on civil and public service recruitment was introduced in March 2009 by the last government.

Sunday Independent

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