Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by the Welsh Assembly Government (PAP 46)

FRAMEWORK FOR ACCOUNTABILITY

  The establishment of the National Assembly for Wales in 1999 has created new structures of democratic accountability for those public bodies in Wales which the Welsh Assembly Government funds. Through the Welsh Assembly Government and the Subject Committees of the Assembly, new and open processes for setting the policy framework for, and scrutinising the performance of, public bodies have become a key element in the governance of Wales.

  The main categories of public bodies concerned are Assembly Sponsored Public Bodies (ASPBs)—the equivalent of NDPBs in England—and the bodies responsible for managing the NHS. The performance of these bodies is crucial to the delivery of the objectives of the Welsh Assembly Government, accounting for nearly half its budget. It is essential that their boards have the confidence of Ministers, have the appropriate skills, experience and diversity and are appointed in a way which carries the confidence of the public.

  The Welsh Assembly Government supports and exercises the procedures in the Commissioner's Code of Practice on Public Appointments which ensure that appointments are made on merit against the job and person specification. A feature of the Welsh Assembly Government's inclusive approach to government is reflected in the Assembly's own Code of Practice for Public Appointments. The involvement of cross-party nominees from the relevant Assembly Subject Committee in all appointments (either through personal involvement or by consultation) provides a check against the risk of political bias and ensures that all parties are involved in a transparent system.

MAINSTREAMING EQUALITY

  In line with the Assembly's statutory obligation to promote equality of opportunity, its Equality of Opportunity Committee has been investigating how to improve practice in public appointments. The aim is to achieve applications for public appointments which are broadly reflective of the Welsh population and which enable appointments to be made so that public bodies broadly reflect the communities they serve.

  The Committee has received two reports from external specialists:

    —  A paper from Wendy Morgan on some of the main issues (such as job definitions, awareness and recruitment, remuneration, retaining and developing appointees). The broad proposals of this report were endorsed by the Committee and the full Assembly. (1)

    —  The summary of a scoping study by Professor Teresa Rees into what motivates people to take up public appointments (commissioned in association with the Commissioner for Public Appointments. (1)

  The Committee has also considered an internal report on a more consistent approach to remuneration of appointees which reflects the need to address barriers to participation.

ACHIEVEMENTS SO FAR

  The main results have been:

    —  Some immediate improvements to designing and equality-proofing of forms, advertisements and training for those involved in appointments.

    —  A drive to achieve a high quality and consistent process which administrates, records and monitors the selection procedure and which provides appropriate information and support for candidates and selection panels.

    —  A draft Action Plan on "Mainstreaming Equality in Public Appointments"—addressing how to improve the diversity of candidates coming forward and ensuring the that the boards themselves embrace equality and diversity in all aspects of their work. The draft Action Plan is currently subject to consultation. The implementation stage will be underway by the Summer.

    —  In-depth consultation on and consideration of the remuneration issues. The consultation phase is complete and a final report is currently with Ministers.

    —  A revised Code of Practice in draft, which brings together the existing Assembly Code with the Commissioner for Public Appointments "revised Code of Practice". Subject to consultation, it is intended that the revised Code will be debated by the Assembly in Plenary session in June.

    —  Proposals for the recruitment, training and management of additional Independent Assessors to scrutinise public appointments. The intention is that in future Independent Assessors will be subject to an appointments process, which parallels a lower tier appointment in the Commissioner's Code.

    —  Proposals for an annual training programme for Independent Assessors in addition to mandatory induction training.

SUMMING UP

  The last two years have been about creating a framework to underpin the drive by the Welsh Assembly Government towards Wales having a public appointments system which:

    —  meets high standards in the quality of service which it offers;

    —  meets the tests of transparency, fairness and appointments made on merit;

    —  reduces barriers to participation and encourages diversity;

    —  supports the development of boards which can play their part in responding to the challenges which Wales faces.

  The Assembly's Equality of Opportunity Committee has played a crucial role in developing ideas as have partners more widely. If the last two years have been about creating the frameworks we need, the next two will be about making those frameworks a success on the ground.

  (1)  Detailed papers on most of this work are accessible in the Committee on Equality of Opportunity's records on the Assembly's website—www.wales.gov.uk.

May 2002


 
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