Michael Gove’s first task on getting his feet under his desk at 102 Petty France was to show the door to the non-executive directors installed at the Ministry of Justice under the government’s scheme to inject a bit of private sector spirit into Whitehall.
A new board under businessman Sir Theodore Agnew, who worked with Gove at the Department for Education, will be in place by the end of the month.
If one indicator from the Grayling years is any guide, the board will face an uphill struggle. Last week the business freesheet CityAM published the results of freedom of information requests showing that the MoJ had easily the largest number of sick days per member of staff of any Whitehall department. In 2013-2014. MoJ civil servants called in sick an average of 8.64 days a year, ahead of 7.84 at the Ministry of Defence and 4.89 at Gove’s old department, education.
‘Mental health issues and stress were listed as the main causes,’ the newspaper reported.
Interestingly, the MoJ’s sister department, the Attorney General’s Office, is almost at the foot of the table, with just 1.72 sick days per employee. The only body to do better was the Department for International Development, whose central challenge is finding ways of spending the barrows of cash being wheeled its way under the government’s commitment to devote 0.7% of GDP to aid.
The secret of captaining a happy ship seems pretty obvious.