I wrote a while ago that I’d be looking for the Welsh Government to answer some questions related to the appointment process for the Chair of the new Welsh environment/natural resources agency. Here is the government’s response to the questions I posed:
- What were the selection criteria for the post?
- Which candidates were eliminated from consideration at the short listing stage and why? What scores did the non-selected candidates achieve?
- Who was on the recruitment panel? What scores were achieved by the shortlisted candidates?
- What scrutiny, if any, was made of Professor Matthews’ role in the lack of investment in Northern Ireland Water that caused the catastrophic failure of supply in December 2010?
The criteria against which selection was made were listed in the candidate pack which was available for anyone to view on the Welsh Government recruitment web pages. I attach a copy of the document for your information.
You will see from the pack that skills and experience sought were the following:
Skills and Experience – essential
- An outstanding record of leadership, organisational transformation and development at Board level or equivalent in a complex organisation
- Experience of leading the development and implementation of strategies aimed at achieving organisational goal
- Excellent track record of inspiring and enthusing staff and stakeholders that demonstrates an inclusive and collaborative approach including working in partnership with staff representatives
- Leading or being part of the leadership in developing organisational cultures
- An exceptional ability to communicate, including handling the media and wider public audiences, and building relationships at all levels. Strong interpersonal skills are required, including the ability to negotiate, persuade and influence
- The ability to contribute independently and pragmatically to the advice given to Ministers
- A track record of managing complex and challenging relationships at a senior level in a multi-stakeholder environment
- Well-developed analytical reasoning skills and judgment based on an expert ability to process and interpret complex information
- Able to demonstrate leadership and a creative and pro-active approach to problem solving with a high level of professionalism
- Ability to ensure that the organisation’s financial dealings are prudently and systematically accounted for, audited and publicly available showing a commitment to transparency and openness
- Understanding of the public sector context and understanding of and commitment to the principles of public life
- Able to demonstrate a track record of commitment to and notable delivery against principles of equality and diversity
Skills and experience – desirable
- A demonstrable interest in, and understanding of sustainable development
- Experience of working in a commercial or regulatory environment
- Understanding of the constraints imposed by operating in the public sector
- Understanding of the culture and heritage of Wales and a commitment to ensuring that, along with its language, they are reflected in the working of the Body
A panel established to advise the Minister on the appointment had an independent chair (Catherine Bishop) appointed by the Office of the Commissioner on Public Appointments who ensured the appointments process, from start to finish, adhered to the procedures required by the Commissioner on Public Appointments. The remainder of the appointments panel consisted of: Gareth Jones (Director General, Sustainable Futures – Welsh Government); Bernard Galton (Director General, People, Places & Corporate Services – Welsh Government); and Peter Davies (Wales Commissioner for Sustainable Futures).
Details of other candidates for the post remain confidential. The decision to recommend Professor Matthews for appointment followed thorough consideration of his qualities and experience set against the requirements of the post.
There are a few points of particular note here. Firstly, an “interest in” the Welsh Government’s central organising principle for the devolved public sector, sustainable development, is merely a desirable attribute. Given that this body will be bound by the Sustainable Development Bill when it becomes law, that seems a peculiarly low bar for candidates to jump.
Secondly, the only answer the Welsh Government could come up with to this question “What scrutiny, if any, was made of Professor Matthews’ role in the lack of investment in Northern Ireland Water that caused the catastrophic failure of supply in December 2010?” was “The decision to recommend Professor Matthews for appointment followed thorough consideration of his qualities and experience set against the requirements of the post”. To you and me, that means that no scrutiny was made of the “years of neglect” that led to the crisis during which hospitals had to rely on the fire service for water.
Thirdly, this criterion “Understanding of the culture and heritage of Wales and a commitment to ensuring that, along with its language, they are reflected in the working of the Body” appears to be optional. So we can expect this new body – one of the largest public sector organisations in Wales – to be able to opt out of a commitment to reflect the culture, heritage and language of Wales in its working.
I understand that the Chief Executive has been appointed. He (I make an assumption alluded to here) will need to have some of the same attributes as the Chair in order to convince the people of Wales that the new organisation will be anything other than a British establishment body with British establishment values. Starting with “An exceptional ability to communicate, including handling the media and wider public audiences, and… the ability to negotiate, persuade and influence”.