Northern Ireland

Ex-RUC officers' jobs: senior police call for audit office probe

Two former senior police officers want the audit office to investigate the PSNI's rehiring of ex-RUC officers who got generous redundancy packages.

They said the current process lacked transparency and jobs should be publicly advertised.

They want the government spending watchdog to investigate the rehiring of those who left with Patten packages.

However, the Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie said it was a temporary measure.

The PSNI currently uses the services of more than 300 former RUC officers on temporary contracts.

They are hired through an employment agency.

Mrs Gillespie defended the practice, adding that she would welcome external scrutiny which would "finally put the matter to bed".

Image caption Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie has defended the move

"I think it's important to recognise the scale of change that has been delivered and to set in context the 300 ex-officers who we are now employing in short term positions," she said.

"It was never, ever envisaged to be a long term solution and throughout the change programme a number of officers have been deployed on a short term contract basis - coming into the service to do short term contracts and then moving out again."

The PSNI said the policy was in line with current employment law and offered value for money.

They said they would welcome an inquiry by the Audit Office.

The two former senior officers who want the audit office investigation are Alan McQuillan, a former assistant chief constable who retired in 2003 and Norman Baxter, who was one of the PSNI's most senior detectives when he retired in 2008.

"I think there is some concern that there isn't the transparency that the public would expect of people in the public service," Mr Baxter said.

"I think it would be a very positive move if the Audit Office was to look at the policy and how it's being implemented."

Mr McQuillan added: "I don't know of any other police force that uses this sort of approach in the long-term.

"This should be subject to some sort of open competition, I don't see why 10 years down the road we can't do that.

"It's not just about a short-term fix, it's about building a police force with the skill base for the future."

More than three quarters of civilian staff employed by the PSNI on temporary contracts are former RUC officers who retired under the Patten redundancy scheme.

Nearly half of them are employed in the most sensitive areas of policing, including intelligence.

Legislation in 2003 stated anyone who left the police with an enhanced Patten package would have to pay back their lump sum if re-employed as a police officer within five years.

But the prohibition did not apply to anyone rehired in a civilian capacity.

The issue is due to be discussed at a meeting of the policing board on Thursday.

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