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Sunday, 21 December 2014

Stateboard Appointment Guidelines which Ministers can ignore

In following up on events I wrote about in Results and Reforms could it still happen again.
Howlin announced A Revised Model for Ministerial Appointments to State Boards on September 30th, 2014. The question was whether the rules he outlined would prevent the abuse of state board appointment by a Minister to qualify somebody for the Senate. I doubted it, the Minister has absolute power and can ignore all the guidelines at will without consequences.

On the November 25th Howlin publishes State Board Guidelines. Guidelines on Appointments to State Boards.

There are 22 points in the guidelines covering as the press release says,

Introduction and context. The background to the guidelines is set out, including previous Government decisions.
Key objectives. This sets out the objectives of the Government Decision of 30 September:

to increase access and widen the pool from which potential appointees to State Boards are drawn;

to strengthen State Boards by enhancing the calibre and quality of appointments; and

to secure a high degree of transparency in the selection of candidates for appointment by the relevant Minister.
Application of the guidelines. This section sets out the boards to which the Guidelines apply.

Exceptions. A number of specific exceptions to the new arrangements are set out.

Development of a specification for board role. The development of a clear and comprehensive specification for each role to be advertised is the key to the successful implementation of the new arrangements.

Publication of roles. The mechanism for publishing all roles on stateboards.ie is set out.

Assessment process. Under the new arrangements assessment of the suitability of a candidate for a board position will be performed by PAS.

Appointment of board members. The selection of the candidates to appoint from the list produced by PAS is solely and exclusively a matter for the relevant Minister.

Interaction of the Guidelines with other policies and guidelines. This clarifies that compliance with the Government Decision of 23 July 2014 on Gender Balance on State Boards is an essential requirement of the Guidelines, and that the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies details the key roles and responsibilities of State Boards.

Database of State Boards. A comprehensive database on each State Board subject to these Guidelines will be published on stateboards.ie by end Q1 2015.

Review. A review of the operation of the Guidelines will be completed and published by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform within 18 months of the new arrangements coming into force.

the only issue that counts is 13. Appointment of Board Members
13.1 The selection of the candidates to appoint from the list is solely and exclusively a matter for the relevant Minister

9.1.4 The Minister has independently identified a person who is evidently and objectively highly-qualified and capable of effectively discharging the role of Chair of a State Board and who has not otherwise applied through the stateboards.ie process (see para. 12.10 below).

12.10 In circumstances as envisaged under paragraph 9.1.4 above where a Minister has separately identified an eminent, high-calibre and highly-qualified candidate suitable for appointment as a Chair of a State Board the Minister will on appointment publish information confirming the candidate’s qualification and suitability for the role.

again only the Public Appointments Service is only supporting the minister,
3.1c PAS to support the relevant Minister in making appointments to State Boards under his/her remit.

12.7 In order to underpin the performance of the statutory function of Ministers in making appointments to State Boards, PAS, in implementing these Guidelines, should seek to ensure that the lists provided to Ministers contain a sufficient number of suitable candidates to allow the Minister to exercise appropriate choice in his or her decision-making.

Ministers retaining the power is the most important.

Fianna Fail's Sean Fleming introduced a bill State Boards (Appointments) Bill 2014 [PMB] to the Dail (lower house of the Irish parliament) on the 26th of November 2014 to put these kind of guidelines into law, which I'll have further look at it below.

A new website for stateboard appointments membership.stateboards.ie was launched in November. It has a list of the all the various depatments state boards, members, date appointed, position type, general basis of appointment and legal basis for appointment. Howlin had said this would be up and running in November, which it was but it was almost immediately out of date, and not updated, causing it to be a month out of date on some boards at this point, I understand that they are still starting up but it raises questions about how soon after an appointment the information will be on the site. A number of ministers such as Minister Alex White also made state board appointments around this time before the new guidelines came into place.

The Road Safety Authority ordinary members and chair person is out of date by a month now , as is the RTE and BAI board by over two weeks at this point, see Minister White nominates RTE Chair and Board Members and Minister White nominates BAI Chair and Board Members.

Howlin also said that
The portal will contain definitive, current information on all statutory boards.

I would have presumed that the Department websites would be primary source for state board membership as they will still make the announcements such as Minister announces further State Board appointments Department of Transport 31/10/2014 and will always be ahead of the membership.stateboards.ie

What time range have they set themselves, from time of appointment to have that appointment up on the membership.stateboards.ie website?

Some parts of Howlin's press release say the website would be ready in November and others that it would be 'comprehensive' by the end of Q1 2015, so it may not be in proper operation till March 2015.

Committee hearing
Part of Howlin's press release
It remains the case that prospective Chairs of State Boards will be obliged to appear before the appropriate Oireachtas Committees.

but that doesn't apply to the Chair of the BAI or RTE, who were recently appointed, it seems? I presume they'll go before the committee in early 2015 when the rest of the board has been put in place. See State appointments to boards of RTE and BAI.

2. Confirmation process for Chairpersons
2.1 A further element of the new system established in 2011 was that persons being proposed by Ministers for appointment as Chairpersons of State Bodies/Agencies were required to make themselves available to the appropriate Oireachtas Committee to discuss the approach which they will take to their role as chairperson and their views about the future contribution of the body or Board in question.

14. Engagement between proposed Chairs and Oireachtas Committees
14.1 The obligation introduced in 2011 on prospective Chairs of State Boards to appear before appropriate Oireachtas Committees continues in force.

Its only an obligation and its not always in force?

I'm aware and wrote about of the different processes for appointment of some members to the the RTE and BAI boards under the Broadcasting Act 2009 but those rules don't seem to mention going in front of the Committee.

Which or what kind of state board does this apply to and which does it not?

Examples of any specific laws or rules which do mention designate chair going before the committee for a hearing. Only Enda Kenny announcing the policy in the Dail on 3rd of May 2011 Details of Labour and Fine Gael election promises on this at the bottom of this post.

Open Data
I asked the department about a number of these issues on December 17th and received no reply as of yet, I also asked,

Does you content management system have a way to show latest changes to the board membership, a running feed saying the membership of eg Bord Bia was the latest updated page on this website would be useful.

The data on membership.stateboards.ie should be available in an open usable format such as a comma seperate value file as well as available through an public API so the data can be use in other programs directly from the portal as its updated. See Data.gov.ie.

The Guidelines on Appointments to State Boards say
19.2 To assist in the maintenance of this database and to ensure that it contains up-to-date information all Departments are required to notify all appointments to State Boards (including ex officio positions) to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform at the time of appointment.

how soon is that?

and is there a specified guideline on the time range for the public announcement of a state board appointment made by a Minister (on that department's website)?

Heather Humphreys

On October 4th 2014 Mary Regan political correspondent of the Irish Examiner wrote Humphreys faces grilling by Dáil committee.

Arts Minister Heather Humphreys has been asked to appear before an Oireachtas committee to answer questions on her appointment of Fine Gael’s Seanad by-election candidate to the Irish Museum of Modern Art (Imma) board.

The Environment Committee, which has a sub-committee on Arts and the Gaeltacht, chaired by Labour TD Michael McCarthy, has written to Ms Humphreys as further questions emerged over her handling of the controversy.

And she wrote October 4th 2014 Is Heather Humphreys running out of places to hide?
An invitation has now been issued to her to appear before the Oireachtas Arts Committee to discuss the events surrounding Mr McNulty’s appointment to the IMMA board.
but she didn't go in front of the committee on that issue till the 25th of November, nearly 2 months later and over 3 months after the controversial appointment.

Future Plans: Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht 25 November 2014.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger This being the first chance we have had to interview the Minister since she was appointed, it would be remiss not to say that her start was inauspicious in relation to the IMMA controversy. She should acknowledge that people saw that as being extremely negative and that it seemed the Government was using cultural institutions as playthings. I hope this signals the end of that.

Deputy Heather Humphreys On the issue of the IMMA appointment, I appointed John McNulty and Sheila O'Regan on merit and I stand over that decision. I am committed to using the new system through State Boards.ie and I have written to the chairpersons of all national cultural institutions asking for the skill set required by them for people who might sit on their boards. I will be using that system in the future.

Although Ruth Coppinger the Socialist Party TD was the only one to question the Minister on the issue, and was critical of her performance, she unfortunately, along with the rest of those in Leinster House let her away with it. Most politicians and media don't seem to think a Minister should be responsible for what a Minister does. There's a misplaced idea that a Minister can be a scapegoat, that Enda Kenny was the one who should shoulder the blame, Enda Kenny said he wanted to avoid the party officials being scapegoats, and of course it wasn't McNulty's fault either even though he was was aware of what was happening, so then everyone is scapegoat and no one is to blame, not even the Minister who officially acted and abused her office.

State Boards (Appointments) Bill 2014
State Boards (Appointments) Bill 2014

An Act to reform the method whereby persons are recruited and selected for appointment to State boards; and to ensure that persons of the highest
quality are recruited and selected for such appointments.

Howlin Blows Chance to Reform State Appointment Process
I believe these voluntary guidelines will not be satisfactory and the public require a clear statutory process that they can be satisfied will be implemented in full.

Looking at the parts the specifically tackle the power of the minister

“Board” means the Board of the Public Appointments. Public Appointments Service Board.

Independence of Board
5. The Board shall be independent in exercising its functions under this Act and no person
shall be appointed to a State board unless he or she has gone through the process provided for under this Act.

Power of Minister to confer further powers on the Board

6. (1) A Minister or the Government shall only appoint to State boards persons
recommended by the Board in accordance with the provisions of this Act.

Guidelines on Appointments to State Boards.

Lobbying Bill 2014 & Appointment to State Boards Eoghan Murphy.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Oireachtas: Salient Rulings of the Chair

Copy of a thread I started on Politics.ie Salient Rulings of the Chair

I came across a reference to a 'Salient Rulings of the Chair' No 246, which I hadn't really heard of, or taken notice of before and didn't know what 'Ruling 246' was, I asked the TD who used the reference and didn't get a quick reply so I had to ask a journalist to look it up for me, it turns out No 246 is "Remarks should be addressed through the Chair", straightforward but then Im not allowed to know that apparently.

The latest version of this handbook was printed in 2002 there was reference to it in the Oireachtas Online Library of documents which said it was downloadable, but the link to it was just a default link and all reference to it was removed when I asked about it, with the Oireachtas Service person saying it was an internal document and could not be published publically. Is this correct should the public not be able to understand what members of the Dail are reffering to when they cite these rulings? eg salient rulings of the chair" section:Dail debates via Kildarestreet.com.

I now understand that they are a collection of precedents from rulings made by the Chairs of the Dail and the Seanad. As opposed to the Standing Orders document.

Procedures in both Houses of the Oireachtas were to be governed by two main sources . This has remained the case since and are a) Standing Orders, which provide the procedural rulebook for members to follow, and b)Salient Rulings of the Chair, which is a handbook of precedents on which the Ceann Comhairle in the Dáil and the Cathaoirleach in the Seanad can refer to when making their rulings.
Muiris MacCarthaigh Constitutional Convention Briefing Note 1 Feb 2014

The most infamous Salient rulings is No. 428, the one about 'unparliamentary language' swearing, insults and the lists of such words, the most recent report on such was in relation to Paul Gogarty although the Word [he used] is not on Dail banned list Indepenent 12/12/2009. CPP Report on Parliamentary Standards 2009.

Rules I've found,

Read out at the start of every Committee meeting: I remind members that under the salient rules of the Chair, they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. Kildarestreet.com
246. Remarks should be addressed through the Chair. Via Gavreilly
302. It is not for the Chair or the House to decide whether a Bill, a section of a Bill or an amendment is or is not in conflict with the Constitution
Dail record 2007
428. Members should show restraint in the House in their use of language Dail record 2007
431. 'political charges are in order but personal charges will not' CPP Report 2010
516. In relation to motions approving a draft Order, the Chair rules amendments inadmissible where there is no provision in the governing Act for such amendment. Dail Record 2005

Im collecting a list and other information here.

Anybody know any other of the Salient Rules and No's

Im not sure if Salient Rulings can also come from the Committee on Procedure and Privileges CPP Committee on Procedure and Privileges (Dáil), Houses of the Oireachtas that the chairs of the two houses
also chair.

There is archive of CPP Reports from 1924-1980, newer reports are more scattered around the Oireachtas website.

There might be elements from private CPP reports that can't be released but perhaps an index of the rules can be released?