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Audit Conclusions under the Code Principles


The principles established by the Commission in the Code of Practice are underpinned by the core values that define probity such as integrity, impartiality, fairness, reliability and ethical conduct.  The Commission is concerned to nurture a values-based culture of trust, fairness, transparency and respect for all (Code of Practice 2.1)

The Principle of Probity encompasses all other principles and will be evidenced in every aspect of the process, through the Licence Holder’s overall adherence and respect for the terms of the Code of Practice, and respect for confidentiality and all legislative requirements.

The Commission is satisfied, in the main, that the recruitment and selection process conducted by Revenue for promotion to Executive Officer (EO) was in compliance with the Code principles.  The audit found that the appointment process was designed and managed in a fair and ethical manner and there was a genuine commitment to ensure the integrity of the process at all stages. 

Based on the findings of the audit the Commission considers that the Licence Holder fully adhered to the terms and conditions of its recruitment licence throughout the selection process.  

Appointments made on merit

Appointment on merit means the appointment of the best person for any given post through a transparent competitive recruitment process where the criteria for judging suitability of candidates can be related directly to the qualifications, attributes and skills required to undertake the duties and responsibilities to the required standard.  It is essential to ensure that the selection process does not provide unjustifiable advantage or disadvantage to any particular candidate or group of candidates (Code of Practice 2.2).

From the outset of the appointment process, candidates were provided with comprehensive and detailed information on the approach to be used and the manner in which candidates would be assessed.  The psychometric tests were designed and developed specifically to reflect the requirements of the EO role in Revenue and to identify the most suitably qualified candidates. 

The Commission is of the view that the use of online ability tests as an assessment mechanism provides a fair and equal opportunity for all candidates to be evaluated against the required qualities and skills for the job.  Based on its review of this process the Commission is satisfied that the criteria and methodology adopted were designed to ensure the selection of candidates on the basis of merit.    

An appointments process in line with best practice

Best practice extends to all aspects of the appointment process, including defining job and person specifications, marketing the vacancy and selecting appropriate assessment mechanisms.  It also includes providing training and supporting management arrangements to ensure the creation and maintenance of appropriate records (Code of Practice 2.3).

It is noted that there were almost 1500 applicants for this internal competition which required a significant allocation of resources in order to manage it effectively.  The use of online psychometric testing as an assessment mechanism is a well recognised and validated recruitment practice to shortlist candidates who are deemed most suitable to progress to the next stage.  The Commission considers that the decision by Revenue to employ these online ability tests for shortlisting purposes was appropriate, cost effective and in line with best practice as required under the Code.

There was clear evidence of appropriate planning covering all aspects of the recruitment process with a focus on the job requirements and the skills needed, including pre-determined selection criteria and relevant documentation and guidance for candidates and others involved in the process.

The Commission is satisfied there were effective management systems in place to fully support each stage of the process.  This was particularly evident in the swift action taken by Revenue to deal with the alleged breach of security and the introduction of a verification stage in order to protect the integrity of the process.    

That said, the Commission has some concerns in relation to the numbers of staff given access to part of the “back-end” to the system which may have contributed to the difficulties experienced in the management of this stage of the process.

A fair appointments process applied with consistency

A fair appointments process applied with consistency means the selection process adopted and the manner in which it is applied must be undertaken with real commitment to equality of opportunity.  Office holders have an obligation to treat candidates fairly, to a consistent standard and in a consistent manner (Code of Practice 2.4).

The Licence Holder identified five core competencies for the role that were notified to candidates at the outset of the competition.  It was found that these selection criteria formed the basis for the design and development of the online psychometric tests and were applied consistently throughout the appointment process.

The Commission is satisfied that by employing standard assessment tools at all stages, i.e. online tests and competitive competency based interviews based on predetermined selection criteria, that all candidates were treated fairly and consistently.

With regard to the breach of security that occurred in this instance the Commission considers that advance access to the online test site was too widely available to a large number of people resulting in certain candidates gaining a possible advantage in the process thus compromising the principle of equality of opportunity.  While the Commission accepts that the decision of the Licence Holder to introduce an additional verification test helped to ensure the integrity of the selection process it considers that the security arrangements for this type of situation need to be reviewed and strengthened to avoid any re-occurrence.    

Appointments made in an open, accountable and transparent manner

Transparency in the appointment process and the openness with which candidates are dealt with by office holders will enhance candidate confidence.  Open and active communication on the process and the basis for assessment is essential.  There should also be a real commitment to offering meaningful feedback to candidates who seek it (Code of Practice 2.5).

The Commission is satisfied that candidates were provided with detailed and comprehensive information on the selection process at the outset particularly with regard to preparation for the online tests.  It is noted that candidates were advised in advance of the psychometric tests to ‘work quickly and accurately’ and ‘avoid guessing the answer’.  In relation to the assessment mechanism used in evaluating performance at the tests, the Commission considers that it may have been useful to provide clearer and more meaningful information to candidates on the manner in which performance would be evaluated.

The Commission considers that candidates were provided with good feedback on how they performed at the tests.  The feedback included the numbers of answers the candidate attempted (speed), the numbers of correct answers (accuracy) as well as useful information on steps the candidate might take to improve their performance in similar tests in the future.  In this regard, the Commission is satisfied that the Licence Holder provided specific and meaningful feedback in line with its obligations under the Code.

However, candidates were not provided with a great deal of information on how their performance compared against the overall candidate pool.  The Commission recommends that the Licence Holder reviews its feedback systems so that candidates can, on request, obtain information, even in broad terms, on how they performed relative to others.  The Commission considers that this additional feedback would be helpful in terms of further enhancing the level of transparency involved in the evaluation of candidates.