FSA suspends search for a permanent chief executive

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food standards agency Employment Chief executive

FSA suspends search for a permanent chief executive
No surprise at failure to find a new boss

Sources both within and outside the Food Standards Agency (FSA) said they were "not remotely surprised" by the FSA's failure to find a permanent chief executive.

The FSA last month extended the contract of the interim chief executive John Harwood for up to two years after failing to find a permanent replacement for the former chief executive, Jon Bell, who left in April.

A lengthy recruitment process failed to attract a suitable candidate, despite the £130,000-150,000 salary, admitted the FSA. "A selection panel chaired by one of the civil service commissioners deemed that none of the applicants was suitable, so no appointment was made."

One food safety expert, who is contracted by the FSA, said: "It doesn't surprise me in the slightest that they have struggled to attract high-calibre people. It's like a poisoned chalice. The media is on your back all the time and whatever you do, you can't win. The FSA also needs to consult the right people more effectively. While it has recruited some eminent people, it also employs a lot of career civil servants. I wouldn't want to head it up."

A senior microbiologist added: "A lot of people are reluctant to inform the FSA about things because they worry that it won't deal with them appropriately.

"The difficulty for anyone heading up the FSA is that it is a bit like New Labour - while it has its board meetings in public, there are all these private conversations going on behind closed doors and people briefing behind your back. Anyone with a commercial background would not put up with that."

Harwood has agreed to stay on until a permanent replacement is found, with a formal recruitment process likely to begin again next summer, said the FSA.

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