Call for Assembly to have more control over the government’s employee recruitment process

THE States Assembly should have the power to pause the recruitment process for a new government chief executive, a politician has said, after being forced to withdraw his proposition to delay the appointment until after the 2022 election.

Deputy Kirsten Morel Picture: ROB CURRIE.
Deputy Kirsten Morel Picture: ROB CURRIE.

Deputy Kirsten Morel explained that it was ‘disappointing’ that he had had to withdraw his proposition, but said he had been left in a ‘no-win situation’ after being told by Solicitor General Matthew Jowitt that proceeding would put the Assembly ‘in danger of requesting something illegal to be done’.

Deputy Morel lodged a proposition in July calling for the recruitment process to be paused until after the June general election.

But in the States Assembly yesterday, it emerged that there would be legal consequences for the States Employment Board if the proposition was approved, with Mr Jowitt saying it would drive ‘a coach and horses through the law’.

Former government chief executive Charlie Parker left his role earlier this year following controversy over his decision to accept a non-executive director’s position with a UK-based real-estate firm, with interim chief executive Paul Martin replacing him on a 12-month contract. A recruitment process to find a new permanent chief executive began and the job has been offered to Suzanne Wylie, who is currently in charge of Belfast City Council. However, the announcement was delayed due to Deputy Morel’s proposition.

Mr Jowitt told the Chamber that once the position was offered and accepted by the candidate, employment regulations meant that a successful proposal from Deputy Morel would require the SEB to break the law.

Speaking after the proposition was withdrawn, Deputy Morel said: ‘You do not want to politicise the appointment process.’

But he said it was ‘ridiculous the States Assembly does not have the ability to start and stop the process’, and that arrangements with the Jersey Appointments Commission were ‘not working at all’.

He explained that he did not have any plans for further propositions on the matter, but added that the Chief Minister had agreed to an SEB meeting with States politicians, where ‘many issues’ could be raised.

During Wednesday’s sitting, Mr Jowitt said: ‘This proposition, I am bound to say – and it is the opinion of law officers – if adopted and acted upon by the SEB, would entail them calling an abrupt halt to a lawful and legally binding selection process.’

Mr Jowitt said the proposition could have led to a challenge in the Royal Court by way of judicial review, and negated the selection process, ‘kicking it into the long grass for many, many months’.

Before deferring to the Solicitor General on legal matters, Deputy Morel queried why the SEB had ‘pressed ahead so quickly with the appointments process’, without implementing recommendations made by Comptroller and Auditor General Lynn Pamment.

In an official response to Deputy Morel’s proposition, the SEB said that delaying the selection would have damaged ‘the reputation of the Island to govern itself well’ and could cost an additional £70,000’.

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