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Over one thousand police officers in Northern Ireland who retired to make way for new hires have returned to their jobs as temporary workers, a new audit office report revealed this week.
The officers from the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) had retired under generous redundancy schemes as part of the so-called Lord Patten's scheme. This reform aimed to overhaul the system and introduce more Catholics into the police force following decades of conflict. The RUC was then replaced by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) in 2001.
A new audit office report by Comptroller and Auditor General for Northern Ireland now shows that nearly a fifth of those RUC 5,500 retirees returned to their jobs as temporary civilian workers to the PSNI.
“There was a collective determination by Government and political parties to portray Northern Ireland as being entirely at peace. The consequences of this over-eagerness was an under-resourced police service with no choice but to rehire experienced officers,” said Terry Spence, chairman of the Police Federation of Northern Ireland.
The report found that the PSNI has spent over £100 million on the use of temporary agency staff since 2005. It said that the practice of rehiring reached a peak in 2007 and criticised the PSNI for its recruitment practices, which had “not always met the high standards of governance and accountability expected of public bodies.”
The report also questioned the PSNI for awarding a contract to staffing firm Grafton Recruitment. The PSNI paid over £44 million in fees and salaries to Grafton for the provision of temporary staff in the four years to 2008 before a competitive tender took place, something the report criticised.
A PSNI spokesman defended the use of temporary staff. “Importantly, in addition to highlighting some areas for improvement, the report recognises the clear business need for the PSNI to use temporary staff in an uncertain financial climate, the value for money provided and also the necessity for some of those workers to require previous policing experience.
“The report highlights the strength of the arrangements we have in place to manage the use of temporary workers. The appropriate place to discuss the detail of the report is with the Policing Board and the Public Accounts Committee and we look forward to having that opportunity in the coming days.”