Long calls for changes to be made to combat ‘cronyism’ accusations

Alliance MLA Naomi Long has called for all public appointments to be brought within the remit of the Commissioner for Public Appointments (CPA), to combat accusations of ‘cronyism’.

It comes after accusations from former Deputy Chief Constable Alan McQuillan that “a level of cronyism exists in Northern Ireland in which corruption can thrive”. East Belfast MLA Mrs Long made her call during a briefing today (Thursday) by the Commissioner to the Committee for Communities.

She added the CPA ought to have statutory powers of intervention in appointments processes, similar to their counterpart in England and Wales.

“It is important there is both transparency and public confidence in all public appointments. At the moment, the CPA provides oversight and feedback on appointments to public bodies, including on issues of diversity. However, some Ministerial appointments remain outside that scrutiny. Particularly in light of recent allegations of cronyism, it would make sense to bring all appointments within their remit. Only in exceptional circumstances, where Ministers can justify it to the CPA, should there be any deviation from that process.

“I also feel strongly the CPA ought to have statutory powers to intervene in an appointments process if they are concerned about how it is being run or about the breadth and depth of the pool of applicants, to ensure boards are inclusive and have the right balance of skills to oversee public bodies, which are responsible for the vast majority of public spending here.

“Proper, robust oversight of all appointments is crucial if the whiff of cronyism and corruption is to be addressed to the satisfaction of the public. Bringing all appointments within the remit of the CPA and strengthening their powers would make a significant contribution to that.”

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