Monday 1 July 2019
A timely and efficient public appointments system is essential to public confidence. Too often, what Sir Gerry Grimstone in his 2016 review called ‘customer care’, is not given the priority it should receive. Appointment processes can drag on for weeks, sometimes even months, with candidates being left in the dark – so a few, even successful ones, withdraw, and many others are disillusioned with the whole process. After all, candidates are usually busy people with lives to plan and other priorities in their work and home lives. The Cabinet Office’s Governance Code, published in 2016, set out a three month aim or aspiration between the final date for submitting applications and the announcement of the outcome. Rightly, a slightly less demanding timetable than originally proposed by Grimstone, which was between the start of a competition and its end.
A thematic review, conducted by my office, has sought to establish what has been happening. More than half of the appointment processes considered exceed the three months aspiration, on average by a further two months. Competitions that exceed the three month aim on average take roughly seven months to the announcement stage. While there can be problems up to the interview stage – for instance getting interview panels together – the longest delays occur between interviews and announcement. It is then that ministers, special advisers and departments can appear not fully to take into account the concerns of waiting candidates. Any failures to meet the three month aspiration and the frequent long, subsequent delays have a number of explanations but are unsatisfactory and inadequate as process and for the candidates involved.
Therefore we propose the following changes: