In the June issue of Civil Service World, FDA General Secretary Dave Penman's column warns MPs that they must stop grandstanding if they want proper scrutiny of civil servants.
Penman writes about Keith Vaz, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee recent session with Olly Robbins, Second Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, suggesting that tone and demeanour of the Chair's behaviour was "nothing more than grandstanding in its purest kind."
The General Secretary stresses that "select committees in the main do some very valuable work, they are integral to the working of our democracy." Stating that "If the purpose of these sessions is to get to the truth, to examine in detail, do they really think that this sort of grandstanding is the way to do it."
Penman states "I know of talented civil servants who have refused to consider promotion because it comes with the threat of ritual humiliation in front of particularly notorious select committee chairs. This can't be good for our public services, and it's not good for democracy if these sessions descend into theatrical cross-examination and defensive responses."
He emphasises that the exchange of such abrasive questioning brings about an environment where "the question is considered as being more important than the answer." Penman points out that "this is not only unfair to the civil servant, it fails to serve our democracy as well."
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Dave Penman: If MPs want proper scrutiny of civil servants, they must stop grandstanding
Civil Service World