Employment histories must be revealed - Gardiner

FULL employment histories of people seeking to serve on public boards need to be revealed by the application process, local MLA Sam Gardiner has said.

The Ulster Unionist said, “I asked the Health Minister whether application forms for appointment to public bodies, arm’s-length bodies and Quangos that are sponsored by his Department, have an employment history section and if not, to outline why.

”His answer gave me some cause for concern. He told me that applicants for appointment of Chairpersons or board members of public bodies sponsored by his Department are invited to provide their ‘current’ employment only. This information is used solely to identify any potential disqualifications or conflicts of interest.

“The Code of Practice issued by the Commissioner for Public Appointments for Northern Ireland paragraph 3.21 states ‘application forms must be clear and straightforward and should ask only what is truly required’.

“Therefore, in order to comply with the Code of Practice full employment history is not requested as it is not part of the criterion based selection process used to appoint Chairpersons and board members,” said Mr Gardiner.

“Given the sensitivity of many of the issues which boards sponsored by the Health Department deal with, I am concerned that applicants do not provide their full employment history. If they were applying for even the most junior teaching post for example, they would be expected to do this.

“Yet these board members are dealing with sensitive information and making decisions which affect thousands of jobs and millions of pounds. Why should their full employment history not be known?”

He added that he found Edwin Poots’ reasons for this “lame”.

Said Mr Gardiner, “He is basically hiding behind a decision by the Commissioner for Public Appointments for Northern Ireland which says that ‘application forms must be clear and straightforward and should ask only what is truly required’. That surely is overridden by the kind of work many of these boards carry out.

“While I do not believe in political correctness gone mad, I do think the public should know that these board members are not asked about an employment history before their current job. Like me, I am sure the public will feel a certain disquiet about this, given the ease with which such a full employment section could be added to these forms and given the sensitivities of the many decisions these boards handle.”