26 September 2023

UNITED KINGDOM: Need for more appointments oversight

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The United Kingdom Public Service is in need of stronger independent regulation, according to a former senior bureaucrat.

Presenting the report of Policy Exchange, a centre-right think tank, former Permanent Secretary at the Treasury, Lord Nicholas Macpherson said there needed to be a dramatic overhaul of the appointments system to end the era of personal patronage.

Lord Macpherson (pictured) said the system for appointing Public Servants was too opaque and the Civil Service Commission should be given greater regulatory powers.

The Commission regulates Public Service recruitment but does not have the power to investigate all appointments and annul those made improperly.

Lord Macpherson said UK law excluded most internal Public Service appointments from the obligation to select on merit following an open competition and that most top jobs in Whitehall “remain unadvertised with appointments often made without any competition taking place”.

His Policy Exchange report called for a legal obligation that Public Servants be appointed on merit.

“Much of the focus of the current debate has been on the role of politicians, whether in awarding contracts or lobbying their former colleagues when they leave Government, but the role of unelected officials merits as much if not more scrutiny,” Lord Macpherson said.

“Their lines of accountability are often obscure, if not weak, and they do not face the sanction of potential removal by the electorate,” he said.

Minister for the Cabinet Office, Steve Barclay said it was important to ensure that all Public Service appointments were on merit “and ensure that we attract the best outside talent into the senior Civil Service”.

London, 10 November 2021

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