Public appointments need strong scrutiny

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) has today published a damning report on the changes to the process of making public appointments.

In 2015, the Grimstone review suggested several changes to the process including the watering down of the Commissioner for Public Appointment’s powers. These were subsequently accepted by the Government.

The review recommended reducing the role of the Commissioner to that of a “commentator” who would judge whether the process has been followed correctly rather than having a more active role as had been the case previously. One of the more significant changes was to remove the commissioner’s power to appoint independent assessors to an appointment panel.

Although there are were efforts to make the whole process more transparent, the PACAC has been very critical of the reforms and today suggest that the government should “think again”. If the reforms reduce the level of accountability and confidence in public appointments, it is hard to disagree.

It is vital that taxpayers can trust those that are appointed to manage millions of their money. Our own research suggests that there can be elements of a jobs merry-go-round amongst senior civil servants and this only undermines taxpayers’ faith in the public sector.

And this PACAC report comes just days after a National Audit Office study said that the quango “landscape” is “confused and incoherent”.

What is clear is that the role of quangos and the people who are in charge of millions of taxpayers’ money needs greater scrutiny and not less.

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