– Scottish Parliament written question – answered on 26th March 2002.
To ask the Scottish Executive what the process is for announcing appointments to the membership of a public body, when this process was introduced and on how many occasions since its introduction the process has not been followed.
The process for announcing appointments to public bodies was introduced across the UK Government as part of the Nolan reforms in 1996 and was revised in 2001. The code published by the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments (OCPA) requires all appointments to be announced in an appropriate way as described in the code. It has been the responsibility of each department of the Scottish Executive - previously each department of the Scottish Office - to ensure compliance with the OCPA Code in relation to appointments made to NDPBs sponsored by that department.
In June 2001, the Executive announced the following plans for changes to the internal administration of the appointments process in the document Public Bodies: Proposals for Change: "A central unit in the Executive will in future oversee most of the standard elements of the appointments process (such as issuing information packs, acknowledging applications, convening appointments panels) in respect of most of the bodies sponsored by the Executive. The aims will be to bring a greater consistency of approach, and to make the process smoother for applicants and more efficient by maximising economies of scale".
The Executive also announced in January 2002 that, in future, the declared public activity of every member of every public body will be published in the Executive's annual report on public appointments.
Detailed records of the procedure, followed in the announcement of the thousands of appointments made since 1996, are not held centrally. However, in preparation for the internal changes described above, and the publication of comprehensive details of political activity, the Executive's Public Appointments Unit has recently audited the data on political activity of current members of NDPBs. They have discovered that in most cases the correct procedures have been followed. However, I regret to say that they have discovered that in 411 individual cases, the political activity declaration was not completed and so the correct procedure for announcing these appointments was not followed. We have contacted all the individuals concerned and virtually all of them have now submitted completed political activity declaration forms. Six declarations remain outstanding. One of these individuals has been out of the country for three months and the other five have been difficult to contact.
I am extremely concerned that the correct procedure for announcing appointments was not followed by officials in every case and have raised this matter with the Permanent Secretary. He has, in turn, instructed the Heads of the Executive Departments to ensure that the correct procedures are followed in every respect in future. In addition, the central Public Appointments Unit is being strengthened in line with the announcement referred to above. It will be given the task of ensuring compliance with the OCPA Code and in due course the code published by the Scottish Commissioner for Public Appointments. This Executive is completely committed to ensuring that our procedures for making public appointments are transparent and fair and that people are appointed on merit.
The collection of the missing political activity declaration forms does affect the aggregate information about the political activity of appointees serving on NDPBs sponsored by the Executive, published in reply to question S1W-18802 on 19 November 2001. Until all the outstanding political activity declarations have been received, we are unable to provide final figures showing how many individuals currently in post have been politically active. Nonetheless, I wish to be as open as possible on this matter and the following table provides the breakdown of political activity as at today's date:
No of Appointees
No of Appointees who have declared political activity
Affiliation to Political Parties of those who have declared political activity
* figures as at 26 March.
I shall report further progress to Parliament at the end of April. I shall also provide then a list detailing the names of each individual who has been politically active and the body on which they serve.
Note 1: Eight current members of NDPBs have declined to complete political activity declarations, as they are currently entitled to do under the terms of the OCPA Code
Note 2: The number of appointees and the number of appointees who have declared political activity includes 35 local authority members of NHS boards and one member who was appointed to the Scottish Ambulance Service Board ex officio in his capacity as local authority member nominated by COSLA. All 36 individuals are by definition politically active. Since 30 September 2001, each of the 32 Scottish local authorities has nominated an elected member to serve on its local NHS board. They are appointed by Scottish ministers ex officio in their capacity as elected council members.
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