Saturday, 25 February 2012

The curious case of the procurement of blue light temporary staff

PSNI are the subject of an investigation on re-hiring former officers as temps. Estimates of spend vary but somewhere between £45m and £60m is reported to have been spent over five years. That's slightly more than the response given to a FoI request in 2009 which stated an estimated value was £5m (per year).  

Three quarters of those hired are former police officers who were recipients of redundancy payments. That's 300 staff

You may ask, 'why were they made redundant in the first place - what was the desired outcome?' The redundancies were the result of the Patten Recommendations to transform the former RUC into a new PSNI. Critics could argue that aspiration has not been achieved. Supporters could say there was a need to ensure business continuity and the terrorist threat had not gone away.

In addition, it was a condition of the redundancy scheme that if those made redundant were re-hired as police officers there would be a repayment of the redundancy payments. Was the contract designed to circumnavigate that requirement since the stipulation doesn't apply if those re-engaged are civilians; even, it seems, if they are carrying out broadly similar roles.  Is this what is meant by the private sector taking up the slack from public sector redundancies?

If the intention was to re-engage as civilians, then the investigation needs to go beyond one contract into the whole category.  Up until now no one has mentioned the contract for Outplacement Services.  If you are fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with this service, it is a bit like a JobCentre Plus advisor which is supposed to help those made redundant adjust, and get back into employment. My experience of it was that it was a smoke and mirrors service which should have been paid by results.  But if they were paid by results, I don't think they would exist and a grant to the Samaritans may be better use of public money - I may save that argument for another day.  Nevertheless, how much was that contract worth and was its purpose merely cosmetic if a revolving door would have sufficed?

Now we face an interesting scenario which may resonate with others.  

How does this sit with
the new Agency Workers Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011?  Will the temps now match their former rights? If so, what happens with the redundancy payments already made?

How will TUPE fit with the new contract which is in the process of being let?

How honestly was the FoI request answered?

Was there a reasonable justification for the initial OJEU estimate of contract value being so far out?

Was there an outcome evaluation of the Patten Recommendation implementation?

Is it moral, in today's climate, to make 300 redundancies and then re-engage them while others remain unemployed and cannot access the same opportunities?

Looks what like we'll have an interesting investigation ahead of us!  I look forward to the lessons learnt.

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