Page last updated at 08:47 GMT, Monday, 3 November 2008

Appointment chief angry at leaks

Felicity Huston
Felicity Huston said she was told the information in a supermarket

Northern Ireland's public appointments commissioner has criticised the leaking of details of those appointed as Victims Commissioners.

Felicity Huston said she was told the commissioners' names in a supermarket a fortnight before they were released.

Her annual report said some applicants heard of their success through the press "amid gossip and speculation".

"It is unacceptable for such leaks of personal information to occur," she said.

"Individuals must be able to apply for a public appointment and know that they will be treated with dignity and confidentiality."

The four-strong Victims' Commission was established earlier this year to represent survivors of the decades-long conflict.

Details of the post holders, Brendan McAllister, Patricia McBride, Bertha McDougall and Michael Nesbitt, were revealed in January.

All positions are full-time and receive 65,000 a year.

Ms Huston has completed an audit report on the recruitment process, which was run by the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM), but said it would be inappropriate to publish it while a judicial review was considered.

A case challenging the appointments is being taken by Michelle Williamson, whose parents were murdered in an IRA bomb attack on the Shankill Road in 1993.

The commissioner also highlighted a two-year wait for the OFMDFM to produce an extra member of staff for her office.

She said there was "a clear conflict" in regulating the work of a department that in turn funds and sponsors the office. Even computer records are kept on an OFMDFM system.

"In a nutshell, the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments Northern Ireland NI (OCPANI) is not independent of the department it is charged with regulating," she added.

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