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Background

(i)    Audit

In March 2014 the Office Holder advertised an internal competition for promotion to Executive Officer (EO) in the organisation.  The selection process consisted of on-line tests at Stage 1 to include a verbal reasoning and a numerical reasoning assessment.   These tests were conducted by Cut-E an independent service provider on behalf of Revenue.

Following completion of the psychometric tests MPRU became aware of possible advance access to the test material as a result of a potential breach of security.  Staff from the MPRU contacted the Commission in April 2014 to apprise it of the potential breach and to inform it of the steps it was taking to address its concerns.  It wrote to the Commission on 26 May 2014 to formally bring this matter to the Commission’s attention.  The Commission was advised that Revenue had taken immediate steps to identify any unauthorised access to the test site in advance of the process with the assistance of the service provider.  Having considered the matter Revenue decided to introduce additional verification measures after the interview stage to mitigate against possible advanced access to the initial selection tests and to protect the integrity of the process.

Revenue conducted an internal investigation into the allegations of attempted interference in the selection process and a report has been completed by the investigation team for consideration and appropriate action by senior management. 

As an added assurance Revenue requested the Commission to carry out an audit of the entire competition process on completion of its own internal investigation into the matter.

(ii)   Complaints

Following notification of the results of the psychometric tests to candidates the Commission received a number of formal complaints and informal inquiries relating to the application and administration of the on-line tests.  In particular the Complainants requested that the Commission examine the possible use of ‘negative marking’ when assessing candidates’ performance in the psychometric tests, which had not been advised to participants in advance of the tests.

The Commission’s review of this competition considered the allegations received by four Complainants made under Section 8 of the Code of Practice.  The allegations refer to several breaches of the Code in relation to:-

  • Negative Marking – It is alleged that ‘negative marking’ was used to determine the order of merit on the panel which adversely affected candidates.  Candidates have alleged that they did not have prior knowledge that marks they received for answering correct answers would be removed in the event that they answered other questions incorrectly and that the failure to provide them with this key information had an adverse impact upon them.  It is further alleged that Revenue failed to communicate the assessment mechanism in advance and there was a breach of the Code which states that ‘the approach adopted in any appointment process should be clear and evident’. 
  • Insufficient Feedback– It is alleged that the feedback provided to candidates on the psychometric tests was not ‘clear, specific and meaningful’ as the service provider was not in a position to provide information in relation to the test scores awarded and how these were calculated.  It has also been alleged that candidates were not provided with information on individual performance and their specific positioning on the order of merit which is neither fair nor transparent. 
  • Delays in processing review request – It has been alleged that Revenue breached the Code by not adhering to the timeframes outlined in the Code review procedures.