Appointments watchdog launches hunt for new chief

Written by Jim Dunton on 3 October 2019 in News
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Baroness Angela Browning set to complete five-year term at Acoba helm

Acoba does 'important work' says Boris Johnson Credit: PA

The Whitehall anti-corruption panel that vets the acceptability of jobs sought by former senior civil servants and ex-ministers is seeking a new chair to succeed Baroness Angela Browning.

Prime minister Boris Johnson, former chancellor George Osborne and ex-GCHQ director Robert Hannigan are among those who have faced the wrath of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments when they failed to get clearance for their post-government roles in recent years.

Johnson’s rebuke came when he resumed his £275,000-a-year Daily Telegraph column shortly after resigning as foreign secretary last year without Acoba’s approval. At the time Browning described his action’s as “unacceptable”.  FCO perm sec Sir Simon McDonald had also counselled against the move.


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Acoba’s rules require former ministers and senior civil servants to get their new roles cleared for two years after they leave government to reduce the chances of privileged information being used for personal gain – and of post-government jobs being seen as rewards for earlier decisions.

While Acoba cannot prevent an individual from taking up an appointment, it can advise applicants that a job is “unsuitable”. In such cases it does not publish details of the person, the job being sought or its reasoning.

Conservative peer Browning was appointed to a fixed five-year term as Acoba chair in late 2014.

Acoba – which is a non-departmental body sponsored by the Cabinet Office – is offering the same renumeration package to Browning’s successor that it offered her in 2014.

Acoba’s advertisement describes the workload as equivalent to two-to-three days per month, but  “spread over the month” through regular e-mail correspondence most weeks, “rather than as whole or half day units”.

It adds that the post is not open to serving civil servants, anyone with unspent criminal convictions, those subject to bankruptcy or disqualified as a company director.

Ironically, bearing in mind his past clash with the body, the candidate information pack for Acoba chair applicants features a welcome message from the prime minister, thanking them for their interest in the role and its “important work”.

“If you believe you have the experience and qualities we are seeking, we very much look forward to hearing from you,” the message ascribed to Johnson concludes.

The pack then goes on to give a brief summary of the role and lists the Seven Principles of Public Life introduced as part of the 1990s Nolan Committee’s work on improving standards in Westminster.

The Acoba chair role is open to applications until 14 October. The candidate pack says the new chair would be expected to start in post early next year, following an approval process that would involve an evidence session before the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee in December.

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