Sunday 26 January 2020

Watchdog swamped as key IT post was unfilled for years

Stock picture
Stock picture

Ken Foxe

The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) warned that it did not have capacity to deal with huge amounts of data that had been seized as part of its investigations.

The ODCE told the Department of Jobs that it was being "compromised" on procurement laws because it did not have the capacity to analyse large amounts of electronic evidence.

It had first asked for a computer expert to be hired in 2014, but the appointment did not take place until more than two years later.

At one stage, even though it had been listed as a "priority" appointment, it was skipped and a potentially suitable candidate was assigned elsewhere in the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

Shortcomings in the ODCE were laid bare in the trial of former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Seán FitzPatrick.

The trial ended in Mr FitzPatrick's acquittal after being accused of allegedly misleading the bank's auditors about millions of euro in loans between 2002 and 2007.

The former banker's acquittal sparked criticism from opposition politicians over the handling of the investigation.

Now, separate concerns about the computer expert's role are revealed in internal departmental emails obtained under freedom of information.

Two senior civil servants raised major concerns last summer over why it had taken so long to fill the job.

One message said: "It is very concerning to see that a post that the minister considered a priority two years ago was not prioritised by the department."

A different senior civil servant asked: "Surely a post that was considered of priority importance by the minister two years ago should have been at the front of the queue for any available and suitable staff."

In response, one of their colleagues said the department was having serious difficulties in filling roles that required computer expertise.

The department had been in discussions with the ODCE about hiring a person with IT experience but in the meantime, a "critical vacancy" had emerged in another section and the candidate was placed there instead.

The Department of Jobs said in a statement: "The recruitment of specialists in the ODCE was delayed due to a number of factors including obtaining sanction for posts and competition in an improving labour market for specific skill sets."

Irish Independent

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