Chief Constable Matt Baggott defends recruitment

BBC Newsline's home affairs correspondent Vincent Kearney reports

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The chief constable of NI has told the assembly's public spending watchdog any police plans to employ temporary staff are properly scrutinised.

The Public Accounts Committee has been questioning Matt Baggott about an Audit Office report critical of the PSNI's recruitment of temporary workers.

It found that the PSNI had rehired almost 20% of RUC officers who had left under the Patten redundancy scheme.

Mr Baggott said steps had been taken to improve procedures.

"There is a star chamber now, chaired by the assistant chief constable and a director of human resources, where every single request for a temporary post is scrutinised in great detail around 'Can you justify this, why can't you do it a different way?'," he said.

"As you'll see in the report, since that process has been implemented at the beginning of 2011, the numbers of temporary staff have reduced significantly."

Last week's Audit Office report described the PSNI policy for recruiting temporary staff as "at one point out of control".

It said the way the process had been managed had not always met the high standards of governance and accountability expected of public sector bodies.

The report revealed that more than 1,000 police officers who had left with large pay-offs had been rehired - with more than 250 of them back within three months.

It also revealed that in 2004, a £44m contract to employ temporary staff had been awarded to a local company with no competitive tendering process.

About 5,500 RUC officers were paid off under the Patten redundancy scheme - it was the most generous redundancy package in the world.

Under the Patten policing reforms, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) was replaced in 2001 by the PSNI as part of measures to attract more Catholic recruits and make the police more representative of Northern Ireland's population.

Catholics now make up about 30% of PSNI officers.

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