Thursday, 18 April 2013

Questions (22)

Brendan Smith

Question:

22. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his views on whether excess costs have been incurred in payments to former civil servants interviewing candidates for public service jobs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17871/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

In response to the Deputy’s question I would like to confirm that excess costs have not been incurred in payments to former civil servants interviewing candidates for public service jobs.

The Irish public service has a long history of fair and open recruitment. The Public Appointments Service (PAS) took over the mantle of the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commissioners in 2004, and continue to ensure that all public service posts (filled by PAS) are filled in an open and transparent manner, using an independent merit based system. To ensure that this is the case, it is important to use a mixture of public and private sector board members to ensure as wide a range of expertise as possible on each selection board. A typical selection board appointed by PAS comprises an Independent Chairperson, external expert(s) and nominee(s) of the employing body.

A very stringent shortlisting exercise is conducted so that only the highest calibre candidates are called to interview, greatly reducing the number of interview days for each campaign. PAS processed 38,814 applications for competitions under their control in 2012, and only 4,207 were interviewed.

PAS, in the course of running recruitment competitions for the public service, seeks to ensure that a person sitting on an interview board has the required skills, competence and expertise to assess the suitability of candidates for appointment to that particular post.

PAS uses trained and experienced individuals from both the private and public sectors on such selection boards. The Chairpersons and external experts come from both public and private sector backgrounds. Those assisting in this task who are in receipt of a public or private sector salary receive no payment whatsoever. A large percentage of selection boards consist of unpaid members. Fee paid board member days accounts for only 38% of board days. A fee per day is paid to retired individuals and to those from the private sector (e.g. self-employed) who forego earnings in order to facilitate PAS by sitting on an interview board. The list of individuals who assist PAS in interviewing is constantly changing but is currently approximately 630, of whom approximately 160 are retired public servants. For this work, retired individuals are paid on a fee-per-day basis and are subject to tax and other relevant deductions. The fees are linked to pre-retirement grades and take account of the principal of pension abatement.

The figures of the amounts paid to selection board members for the last 5 years indicate an even balance between amounts paid to those retired from the public sector and those from private sector background.

PAS has actively tried to reduce the amount paid on selection boards in the past five years; and my Department has reduced fees paid to retired civil servants acting on selection board members in May 2009, January 2010 and in January 2012. On average, fees paid to retired civil servants for acting on interview boards have decreased by 50% since 2008.

Question No. 23 answered with Question No. 18.