Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: Rehiring of RUC staff was a mess

The PSNI's rehiring of officers who had left the force under the Patten reforms - whatever the justifications in some cases - was handled appallingly. A report shows that the processes used to hire the officers, to supervise the cost of bringing them in and to monitor progress of the scheme, were very lax.

Almost one in five officers who took voluntary redundancy from the RUC - in many cases getting very large sums of money - later rejoined the new PSNI as temporary staff. But in some cases those so-called temporary jobs lasted nearly eight years.

There is no doubt that the loss of 5,500 RUC officers at the time of the Patten reforms left a huge deficit in experience in the new force and the resurgent threat from dissident republicans meant that the PSNI was under pressure.

But that does not excuse the wholesale rehiring of officers as agency staff or the cost of the process, almost £100m to the public purse.

The report says the procurement, recruitment and management of the staff did not meet expected levels of governance and accountability and there were other concerns about the process.

This is a quite damning report of a process which seemed to have taken on a life of its own with no proper strategic or financial oversight. It was also a process which could have had serious political repercussions given the sensitive nature of the policing reforms and the need to increase Catholic representation in the force.

Rehiring officers from a force which had attracted criticism because of its make-up was hardly an encouraging sign of progress.

In the wake of this report it is clear that greater accountability is required and that many areas of the process need to be re-evaluated. Giving out jobs - both to individuals and companies - without going to tender is a practice which should not be permitted except in exceptional circumstances. The recruitment procedures were certainly not robust enough and there was an inexplicable lack of supervision. Certainly the Chief Constable must clean up this mess and quickly.

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