Normington’s fear is that the tax scandal may reveal excessive use of interims in roles that would normally be filled by senior civil servants – the appointment of whom is bound by strict recruitment principles and must be approved by the commission. Those rules don’t apply when hiring interims or consultants, who are selected via procurement rather than recruitment processes.
A statement issued by the commission says: “We currently do not know if the individuals involved are civil servants or not. Anybody who is a civil servant should have been appointed on merit through fair and open competition or as one of the commission’s approved exceptions.
“In light of the media stories, first commissioner Sir David Normington has written to the head of the civil service seeking clarification and assurance that this is indeed the case and that these matters will be covered by the review that has already been announced”.
The review of the tax avoidance schemes is being conducted by the Treasury following revelations that some senior staff are being paid through private companies rather than via PAYE, potentially saving them thousands of pounds in tax.
Of the 29 individuals who are believed to be under investigation, two are officials from the Office for Nuclear Regulation – as revealed by CSW earlier this month (p2, 8 February). COO Paul Brown and finance director Jon Seddon joined the ONR on interim arrangements in November 2008 and February 2010 respectively. On 20 December 2011, it was confirmed in answer to a parliamentary question that the decision to employ both on temporary contracts was taken “to fill quickly temporary senior staff positions needed in the nuclear regulatory area of [Health and Safety Executive].”
In answer to questions about their salary arrangements, minister for employment Chris Grayling said: “The cost of the posts is recovered from the nuclear industry. The individuals concerned were not available for employment except through payment to limited companies.”
The use of interim managers within Whitehall is believed to be “extensive”, according to an interim contacted by CSW. The source highlighted how this type of short-term contract protects employers from the risks attached to employing people full-time – particularly in a time of change, when redundancies are likely. However, they said: “I understand the number [of interims] has declined quite a lot over the last year. It’s probably been at its peak.”
Interim Management Association chairman Jason Atkinson said: “Interim managers lead transformation and change – quickly and effectively.
See also: Senior consultants under scrutiny for tax arrangements