Memorandum by Probity (PAP 60)
Patronage: The control of appointments and
privilege in public life. Cronyism. Nepotism
The House of Commons Public Administration Select
Committee is undertaking an inquiry into the public appointments
process in Britain. Probity, the campaign for integrity in public
life, investigates corruption and malpractice. This paper is Probity's
response to the three main questions posed by the Committee:
How well/fairly does Britain's appointment system
1. From an oligarch's point of view Britain's
appointment system works both smoothly and efficiently. Our rulers
control all important appointments in public and commercial life.
2. From a democrat's point of view Britain's
appointment system is one of the worst in the developed world.
Our citizens have no control over who runs the countryno
control over the appointment or removal of business, government,
legal, financial, social or political leaders.
3. Monarchs, dictators, fascists, communists
and one-party states (Oligarchies) thrive upon systems of government
that centralise power in the hands of a ruling elite. They do
this by controlling who leads and manages the structures and institutions
of public life.
4. Democracies thrive when power is distributed
amongst the peoplewhen the power to select and appoint
leaders to public office lies with the electorate.
5. Britain is the only society in Europe
which, in contravention of the law on Human Rights,
is still governed by appointed, rather than elected leaders. With
a monarchy, a privy council, the House of Lords, the judiciary,
the civil service, landed gentry, powerful businessmen, a prime
minister and a cabinet all holding positions in public life by
appointment or birthright; patronage and cronyism dominate leadership
appointments in every walk of public life.
6. In the one area of public life where
the electorate has its say, the appointment of MPs, selection
is dominated by political parties. In the past decade only two
MPs have been directly "selected and elected" by their
electorate. Party loyalty and government "whipping"
cause elected representatives to give priority to the party line
in preference to their fiduciary duty to their electorate.
7. Patronage leads to square pegs in round
holes. The wrong person for the job. Many of Britain's top jobs
in industry, commerce and government are held by incompetents
Lacking the appropriate skills (merit) for the job, their appointment
ensures low quality organisational performance. With no competition
and a monopoly over their particular activity, Britain's outdated
and inefficient institutions languish in comfortable but costly
8. Whether an appointment is fair or unfair
depends upon the perception of the electorate. In a democracy
the electorate consider an appointment to be fair when the winner
is appointed after an open, competitive election by secret ballot.
When an elector has a choice of several candidates, the opportunity
to consider each candidate's manifesto, information on each candidate's
background, skills and experience, a statement of the fee that
they will charge for doing the job, and the opportunity to question
the candidate on their policies, they consider the appointment
to be fair and just. If any one of these factors is manipulated
or absent the perception of fairness falls.
What changes are needed to the appointments system
9. Confirmation by the electorate that Britain
wishes to operate a democratic public appointment system by secret
ballot and competitive election rather than by patronage, cronyism
10. Statutory introduction of two tier boards
in all public organisations. One (the legislature) to construct,
manage and modify its constitution; and one (the executive) to
formulate and implement strategy and plans.
11. Statutory introduction of an electoral
appointment system for every public office in the country. Every
"public" institution, including the House of Lords,
must be required to specify in its constitution its electorate,
the methods and time-scale of appointments to its legislative
and executive boards, its reward system and its renewal and change
12. The replacement of Britain's outdated
and unaccountable royal patronage system, where professions and
businesses are granted royal charters, with a fixed-term parliamentary
charter system with chartered institutions directly accountable
What role should Parliament have in controlling
13. Parliament's main role should be to
encourage the growth of democracy
in Britain through the maintenance and renewal of national democratic
14. Introduce legislation to support a countrywide,
democratic electoral appointments system. Wherever aspects of
individuals' lives are governed by the actions of institutions
(businesses, professions, government etc), ensure that stakeholders
have a say in the formation of their constitution and the election
15. Set up and monitor an appointments commission
(a) Managing and overseeing the elimination
of patronage, cronyism and nepotism from all Britain's public
(b) Monitoring and encouraging progress towards
an electoral appointments system in all businesses and institutions
involving more than 50 stakeholders.
16. Introduce legislation eliminating royal
charters and the privy council whilst introducing fixed term parliamentary
Probity is concerned that Britain's outdated
public appointment system is based on patronage and cronyism rather
than on democratic merit-based electoral processes. This leads
to incompetence and corruption in government institutions, militates
against modernisation and reform, and institutionalises unfair
and unjust government. We urge the committee to recommend radical
changes to this government.
Cronyism: The practice of favouring relatives,
friends or supporters in conferring offices, making appointments
or awarding contracts, honours and privileges.
Chris Coverdale, an organisation and governance
consultant has been involved in business since 1964 and has been
a company director since 1975. As a victim of two serious frauds
he was disturbed at the authorities' blank refusal to act, and
grew determined to investigate further. Those investigations showed
that gold-collar crime
is widespread in business and government in Britain. Governors,
directors and leaders regularly abuse their fiduciary duty and
position in society to board the gravy train. Chris recently set
up Probity to eliminate corruption and promote integrity in public
life in Britain.
Probity is a newly formed co-operative detecting,
investigating and preventing gold-collar crime and promoting integrity
in public life. We offer:
A detection service. Leading
corruption audits to uncover fraud and corruption in company boardrooms
and governing bodies.
An investigation service.
Investigating mismanagement and suspect boardroom transactions,
we identify the underlying systemic causes and recommend permanent
A consultancy service. Working
with stakeholders redesigning corporate systems to increase integrity
and prevent corruption.
A training service. Running
seminars and workshops on corruption in Britain with ways of detecting,
eliminating and preventing it.
Information. Our web-sites
contain information and advice on the nature and sources of corruption
and "best practice" in its prevention.
Probity needs your support. Any reader willing
to help, support or join us and wanting to know more about us
can contact us.
17 The Human Rights Act 1998. The First Protocol, Article
3 states : The High Contracting Parties undertake to hold free
elections at reasonable intervals by secret ballot under conditions
which will ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people
in the choice of the legislature. Back
PASC briefing notes indicate that 30,000 public appointments are
made by ministers rather than by the electorate. Back
Probity has extensive evidence of corrupt practice by several
leading businessmen and civil servants. Back
Probity estimates that outdated inefficient government costs UK
taxpayers in excess of £200 billion pa. Back
Governance of the people by the people for the people. Back
Probity refers to corrupt practices by officials in positions
of responsibility as "gold-collar crime". Back