Examination of Witnesses (Questions 166-172)
SIR WILLIAM WELLS and DR ROGER MOORE
WEDNESDAY 15 MAY 2002
Chairman: Gentlemen, thank you for leaving us a moment ago. It was interesting to clarify what was the most appropriate way forward. Mr Burns wanted to pursue briefly an issue relating to the case that you are aware of. I am anxious that we stick to the principles here because obviously I am concerned about the principles of the Commission's operation and the need to learn some lessons from cases such as this.
166. As the Chairman says, I do not want to discuss the details of this individual case and of what happened. What I do want to know, arising out of this case, is that I am interested for confirmation that this is correct, that, under your Commission's procedures for arrangements for local chair appointments is it correct that Regional Commissioners will review appraisal reports and discuss the possible re-appointment with Regional Directors? Except where the appraised performance of the incumbent chair is good, vacancies will be advertised. Is that fair?
(Sir William Wells) "Consistently good" should be the phrase.
167. But that is basically it?
(Dr Moore) That is from the past because the Regional Directors no longer exist.
168. You are right. But that was the situation?
(Sir William Wells) Yes.
169. And presumably now, although Regional Directors no longer exist, the broad philosophy behind that procedure still applies without the Regional Directors?
(Sir William Wells) As I replied earlier to the Chairman's question, it is a mixture of a number of things but it is an appraisal, a CHI report, a star rating and the views of the accounting officer.
170. Going on that assumption, if an individual appraisal in each different category that was appraised had a verdict of "good", would it be highly unusual then for that individual not to be re-appointed, or is it not as simple as that?
(Sir William Wells) I think we have to be careful about what appraisal you are talking about. Certainly, in the event that that was the case with the new appraisal system, I would be very surprised if they were not re-appointed.
171. And when you say "new appraisal", new appraisal from when?
(Sir William Wells) Which was introduced from 1 April this year.
172. Which is after the case.
(Sir William Wells) I think it is important for us to be very frank about this. We inherited a system which was wildly different across the country. In some regions there were no appraisals. In some cases there were no tested appraisals. In other words, the Chairman could write anything about him or herself and nobody bothered to question it or the like. Therefore, where we knew there had been queries raised over chairsand this is not just in the part of the country from which the MP came but right across the countrywe cast considerable doubts on the value of those appraisals. As a consequence, and because we had to make those re-appointment decisions in a very short period of time, bearing in mind we were only brought into being on 1 April and we had to make decisions by the second week in July if we were going to be able to meet the appointment schedule for everything else, we came to the pragmatic and not very satisfactory decision, which was the only one that was available to us, that we had to rely upon the then Regional Directors who were the only people in the system who could give us a view as to whether these people should be automatically re-appointed or not. In coming to our decisions on that, bearing in mind that we made it very clear that by not automatically re-appointing them (unless we jolly well told them and in some cases we did tell them they would not get re-appointed,) they were perfectly entitled to apply for the post which they held in open competition following the new process which we had adopted. In the particular case which is under question that is what happened. The particular person did apply and the outcome of the first round of interviews was that the Panel decided that nobody should be appointed. Subsequently, in another round after that, an appointment was made of a candidate who is currently the chair of that particular organisation. The process was followed absolutely accurately. I have examined all the papers myself personally, but I have made it very clear, as I have made it clear in a number of other cases, where similar situations were raised that it was not satisfactory but I could not do anything other than that because that was the pack of cards that I had to play with. Therefore we tried to make it as fair as we conceivably could but where there was doubt because of our lack of detailed knowledge we erred on the side of being conservative (with a small "c"), by going through the whole process because we felt that that would give everybody a fair chance of demonstrating that the views on a perfectly open and level playing field and that we had had a wrong bias from a Regional Director.
Chairman: Any colleagues wish to ask any further questions? Dr Moore, Sir William, thank you very much.