SOME DEPARTMENTS FLOUTING STATE BOARD APPOINTMENTS GUIDELINES – BROUGHAN

Deputy Tommy Broughan has recently been asking some Departments whether they have made appointments to a State board in the past three years where they have reappointed a person that has already served two full terms contrary to the advice in section 13.2 of the Guidelines on Appointments to State Boards and to indicate the rationale for such appointments in cases where it has happened.

The reply from the Minister for Finance states:

“There are eight State Boards under the aegis of my Department. They are the Central Bank Commission, the Credit Union Restructuring Board, the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman, Home Building Finance Ireland, the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council, the National Asset Management Agency, the National Treasury Management Agency and the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland. For seven of these Boards, there has been no appointment in the past three years of persons who have already served two full terms.  

The Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman (FSPO) was established on 1 January 2018. Under the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Act 2017, a member of the Council shall hold office for such period not exceeding five years from the date of his or her appointment as the Minister for Finance may determine. On the establishment day, the Financial Services Ombudsman’s Bureau, the Financial Services Ombudsman Council and the office of the Pensions Ombudsman were dissolved.  All functions that, immediately prior to the establishment day, were vested in the Financial Services Ombudsman or the Pensions Ombudsman were transferred, on and from the establishment day, to the FSPO.

 Following a competition conducted by the Public Appointments Service (PAS) in 2016 in line with the Guidelines for Appointments to State Boards, four candidates were appointed to the Financial Services Ombudsman Council, each for a five-year term effective from 9 January 2017. One of these candidates, Mr Dermot Jewell, had already served as a member of the Council since 2004 and was reappointed in line with Section 13.1 of the Guidelines which states:

“The selection of the candidates to appoint from the list is solely and exclusively a matter for the relevant Minister in light of the objectives of the revised appointments system to ensure that State Boards have an appropriate mix of the experience, knowledge and skills to successfully oversee the performance of the Board’s functions.”

One further successful candidate appointed from the 2016 PAS competition, Ms Elizabeth Walsh, had been a serving member of the Financial Services Ombudsman Council. Ms Walsh was appointed to the Council in 2013 for a two-year term or until the merger of the Financial Services Ombudsman with the Pensions Ombudsman had been completed, whichever was the sooner. As the FSPO was ultimately established in January 2018, Ms Walsh was reappointed for a further term in 2015 prior to her successful candidacy in the 2016 competition.

The seven existing Council members, including those appointed from the 2016 competition,  remained in place to serve on the board of the FSPO following the amalgamation of the Financial Services Ombudsman and the Pensions Ombudsman.”

The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government reply states:

“One Board member of Ervia up to January 2018 had been appointed three times in particular circumstances. The Board member was first appointed to the Board of the then Bord Gáis Éireann (BGÉ) with effect from 28 November 2008 for a period of 5 years. This appointment was linked to the company’s Employee Share Ownership Plan and the second term on the Board, which commenced on 21 November 2013, was linked to the Profit Sharing Scheme. The second term ended on 5 January 2015, when the Trustee’s holding reduced to less than 1%.  Following negotiations at that time, the Board member was appointed for a third term, on 20 January 2015, for a period of 3 years.

In accordance with the Guidelines on Appointments to State Boards and the exceptions to the arrangements provided in section 9 of those Guidelines, as well as the exceptional arrangements set out in section 4.5 of the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies, I, with Government approval, re-appointed the Board member to the Ervia Board on an exceptional basis for a term of 3 years with effect from 10 July 2018. In doing so, regard was had to the individual’s background and experience in trade unions and his contribution to and experience on the Board of Ervia over a period which involved several major organisational changes.

The Chairperson of the Property Registration Authority was re-appointed, on 4 November 2018, for a third term. Work is currently underway to progress the merger of the Property Registration Authority, Valuation Office and Ordinance Survey Ireland. While the full implementation of the merger requires the passing of legislation, the merger continues to progress on an administrative basis. It was for this reason that the Chairperson was reappointed until 3 November 2022 or the establishment of Táilte Éireann, whichever is sooner.”

Deputy Broughan said “Guideline 13.2 of the 2014 Guidelines on Appointments  to  State Boards by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform state that “Consistent with best corporate governance practice it is advisable that no member of a State Board should serve more than two full terms of appointment or should hold appointments to more than two State Boards.”  It is disappointing to see that the Minister for Finance is not following the guidelines set down by his own Department.  While I accept that there can be exceptions to these guidelines, there is also a wealth of knowledge and experience in the country and it is always important to open these opportunities to potential board members for State boards.”