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Introduction

One of the core functions of the Commission for Public Service Appointments is to safeguard standards of best practice in recruitment and selection processes to positions in the organisations within its remit.  This role is primarily fulfilled through its audit function to ensure that the standards established in the Codes of Practice are upheld and that, where applicable, licence holders are adhering to the terms and conditions of their recruitment licences. The Commission also investigates complaints where breaches in its Codes of Practice have been alleged.

In addition to its audit and complaint investigation functions the Commission has a number of other responsibilities under the Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) Act 2004 (the Act).  Under Section 17 of the Act the Commission may carry out an assessment of recruitment practices in any public service body or class of public service bodies within its remit and make a recommendation to the Minister.

Between December 2010 and January 2011 the Commission received 4 complaints from members of the Professional and Technical Staff within the Civil Service alleging that their respective Departments and Offices were breaching the Commission’s Codes of Practice by confining appointments processes for promotion to those in general Civil Service Administrative Grades.  Each complainant highlighted that the Commission’s Code of Practice requires Office Holders to ensure that the eligibility criteria for its appointments process are not unduly restrictive and reflect only what is necessary to perform the duties of a position. 

In responding to the allegations, one of the Office Holders advised that, under Section 58 of the Act, the Minister for Finance is responsible for the eligibility criteria and without a direction from the Department of Finance (now Department of Public Expenditure and Reform), they were precluded from unilaterally changing the criteria agreed centrally with representative bodies.  The Office Holder advised that it was generally positively disposed towards cross streaming and that it had in the past sought to reach an agreement with the Staff Representative Bodies within the office.  However such an agreement had not proven possible and the Office Holder had no option but to confine its internal appointment processes to those in the eligible administrative grades.

The Act also requires that the Commission establishes Codes of Practice that must be followed by Public Service bodies within its remit for recruitment and selection and for internal promotions.  Section 24 (1) of the Act provides that the Commission’s Codes of Practice shall include requirements relating to (a) knowledge and ability to enter on the discharge of the duties of the post concerned; (b) suitability on the grounds of character; and (c) suitability in all other relevant respects for appointment to the post concerned. 

The Commission’s Code of Practice states:-

“Requirements are not unduly restrictive and reflect what is necessary to perform the duties of the position”

and

“terms and conditions, eligibility criteria and the use of the Irish Language are agreed with the appropriate Minister at the outset, in accordance with the requirements of the job and/or any statutory requirements”. 

Following its examination of the four complaints the Commission concluded that the eligibility criteria employed were restrictive and did not reflect what is necessary to perform the duties of the position and, as such, they are contrary to its Code of Practice.  However the Commission also recognised that under Section 58 of the Act, it is the responsibility of the Minister for Finance (and not the Office Holder) to establish the eligibility criteria.

In view of the ambiguity with regard to responsibility for meeting the requirements of the Code when establishing eligibility criteria for promotions in the Civil Service, the Commission decided to conduct an assessment into whether the criteria employed for internal civil service appointment processes meet best recruitment practice and make a report to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform on the matter. 

The Commission would like to thank the personnel in the Human Resource Units in each of the Departments/Offices who took the time to complete and return the survey forms.