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Commission’s Response to the Survey

Under the Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) Act 2004, the Commission for Public Service Appointments is charged with establishing standards of probity, merit, equity and fairness for appointments to public service bodies within its remit.  The Commission believes that the public interest is best served when those appointed to fill public service positions are selected from the broadest available candidate pool following a merit based competitive appointments process. 

The Commission is of the view that eligibility criteria for positions in the public service should only reflect the duties and responsibilities of the role.  As such the criteria should support the appointments process by focussing on candidates with the knowledge, skills, experience and attributes relevant to the position and exclude only those who could not realistically be expected to perform the role to a satisfactory standard. 

The Commission welcomes the trend towards more openly advertised appointment processes for positions in the Civil Service and believes that this will serve to broaden the talent pool available to those charged with selecting candidates for vital public service posts.  While the Commission recognises that confining some processes to staff serving within organisations can help to increase staff loyalty and commitment, promote career progression and serves to incentivise staff development, generally speaking, it has a difficulty with restrictive practices that serve to limit the opportunities for a public service body to appoint the most suitable candidates. 

In its Codes of Practice, the Commission sets out that the eligibility criteria for positions must not be overly restrictive and must reflect only what is necessary to perform the duties of the position.  The Commission notes that the Civil Service employs professionally qualified Economists, Accountants, Solicitors, Barristers, Valuers, Architects, Statisticians, Psychologists, and Engineers to name but a few and many of these employees are prevented from applying for the majority of the promotion outlets available to their colleagues in equivalent (or almost equivalent) administrative grades within the organisation.  Equally, the Commission is conscious that many Civil Servants in Administrative Grades have professional qualifications but are prevented from applying for promotion to Professional and Technical positions as they are working in what is deemed to be an ineligible grade.

Apart from its concern that the criteria used at the very least appear unfair to the individuals concerned, the Commission also believes that by restricting these candidate pools, Departments and Offices are potentially missing out on the opportunity to appoint the a more suitable candidate for the job.  Ultimately, the Commission is concerned about the subsequent impact this might have on organisational performance and the delivery of public services.

The survey highlights that many Civil Service Offices and Departments favour the removal of demarcations between the Professional and Technical Staff and Administrative Grades.  Some Departments/Offices are of the view that this will facilitate greater mobility, more flexible work arrangements and improved integration. 

The Commission notes the concerns expressed by a number of Departments/Offices that scarce expertise may be lost if Professional and Technical staff are promoted out of their current positions.  The Commission considers that these concerns are a tacit admission that at least some staff in the Professional and Technical Grades have highly transferable skills and are likely to succeed in appointments processes in competitions with their administrative colleagues.  The Commission recognises that the Departments/Offices concerned will be challenged by this and will need to consider its succession planning strategies to address the risk of an increase in turnover of its Professional and Technical staff.

While its primary concern is the selection of the best candidate for the job, the Commission is of the view that removing the barriers and enhancing the career prospects for members of the Professional and Technical staff will make the basic grade more attractive and would serve to attract greater numbers of potentially suitable applicants if and when these positions become vacant. 

Finally the Commission notes that most Departments/Offices who favour cross-streaming promotions are unable or reluctant to pursue this policy without a central agreement and/or an explicit direction from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. 

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform advised that, while the management side at central level have in the past sought agreement for cross-stream eligibility for competitions, this has not been forthcoming from the Staff Side. Accordingly the central position is that there is no agreement to cross-stream eligibility. This does not prevent office holders from seeking such agreement at local level. The Department is conscious that some Offices/Departments unsuccessfully sought to persuade staff bodies to agree to cross streaming promotions in the past.

The Commission is of the view that cross-streaming of promotions will involve the removal of unnecessarily restrictive selection criteria and that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform should advise staff representative bodies that its approval for future promotions will be contingent upon their acceptance of the removal of these restrictions.