Press Release

Assembly Appoints Its Commissioner for Standards

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Monday, 18 June 2012

Reference: S&P 04/11/12

The Northern Ireland Assembly today agreed to appoint Mr Douglas Bain CBE as the Northern Ireland Assembly Commissioner for Standards. The new independent office of Commissioner was created last year and has a range of statutory powers.

Speaking after the Assembly resolution Alastair Ross, MLA, the Chairperson of the Committee on Standards and Privileges said: “I welcome the Assembly’s decision to appoint Douglas Bain as the Northern Ireland Assembly Commissioner for Standards.  The role of the independent Commissioner is crucial in ensuring that MLAs uphold high standards of conduct in public life. Mr Bain has all the skills and expertise to make an excellent Commissioner and I look forward to working with him.

“I also want to place on record the Assembly’s gratitude to the Ombudsman, Dr Tom Frawley CBE, who has carried out the role of interim Assembly Commissioner for Standards for a number of years. Both the Assembly and the wider public have been well served by his support and it is important that this is acknowledged.”


Notes to Editors:

1. The Northern Ireland Assembly Commissioner for Standards must be appointed by resolution of the Assembly.  Accordingly, the two Members who sat on the selection panel, with the respective support of the Committee on Standards and Privileges and the Assembly Commission, tabled a motion to appoint Mr Bain as Commissioner for a term of 5 years from 17 September 2012.

2. The process that identified the preferred candidate for the Commissioner for Standards was as follows:

On Monday 20 June 2011 the Assembly resolved:

“That this Assembly notes that the Assembly Members (Independent Financial Review and Standards) Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 provides for there to be a Northern Ireland Assembly Commissioner for Standards; and delegates to the Assembly Commission those functions referred to in section 19 (4) of that Act in relation to the appointment of the Commissioner”.

Section 19 (4) of the Assembly Members (Independent Financial Review and Standards) Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 provides that the Assembly shall make arrangements for:

•   ensuring that any person to be appointed as Commissioner has been identified by fair and open competition;

•   determining any criteria for appointment; and

•   determining the terms and conditions on which such appointment, when made, is to have effect.

The Assembly Commission subsequently agreed a fair and open competition for identifying a person to be appointed as Northern Ireland Assembly Commissioner for Standards.  The Commission agreed that the seven key principles of best practice in respect of public appointments should underpin the competition.  The Commission also agreed to establish a selection panel for the competition which included the Chairperson of the Committee on Standards and Privileges and a Member of the Assembly Commission.

An initial competition did not identify a suitable candidate.  The Commission therefore agreed in January 2012 to carry out a further competition.  A selection panel was convened, which included Mr Alastair Ross MLA (as Chairperson of the Committee on Standards and Privileges) and Mr Barry McElduff MLA (from the Assembly Commission).  The chairperson of the panel was Mr Stuart Allan, the Scottish Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

The post was widely advertised and 25 applications were received.  After having sifted these applications, the panel carried out interviews on 26 April 2012. The panel concluded that Mr Douglas Bain was its preferred candidate for appointment. 

3. The Commission has agreed that the Commissioner shall be paid a daily rate of £550. It is expected that the Commissioner will work 2-3 days per month, on average.

4. Pen Portrait of the Commissioner for Standards Mr Douglas Bain CBE

Mr Bain was born and educated in Edinburgh.  He was called to the Scottish Bar in 1973 and, following a period in private practice, he joined the Civil Service in 1977. After a period of 4 years in the Office of the Solicitor to the Secretary of State for Scotland, he was appointed as a Procurator Fiscal Depute in 1981. From 1984 until 1988 he served in the Crown Office Fraud Unit where he successfully led the investigation of a number of cases of serious and complex fraud and corruption.

Mr Bain moved to Northern Ireland in 1988 to take up a position in the Northern Ireland Office where, over the next eight years, he held a number of senior posts. In 1996 he was seconded to the Police Authority for Northern Ireland as the Director of the Financial Crime Services Unit.  His work as Director of Services in the Northern Ireland Prison Service between 2000 and 2006 was recognised with the award of a CBE in June of that year.

Having resigned from the Civil Service, Mr Bain was appointed Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland in June 2006.  He held that post until his retirement in October 2010.

Mr Bain was appointed as a member of the Parades Commission for a period of three years from January 2011.  In February 2012 he was appointed as an Independent Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly Secretariat Audit and Risk Committee but has intimated his intention to resign from that post if appointed as Commissioner.  In April 2012 he was appointed as a member of the National Security Certificate Appeals Tribunal for a period of five years.  He is an external examiner for the association of Electoral Administrators.

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