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Focus On Series

Australian Capital Territory Public Service Recruitment Practices

Australian Capital Territory Public Service Recruitment PracticesAudit Summary

Publication Date:
October 2012

Audit Office:
Australian Capital Territory Audit Office

Link to full report:
http://www.audit.act.gov.au/auditreports/reports2012/Report No. 8 ACT Public Service Recruitment Practices.pdf

Audited Entities

  • Canberra Institute of Technology
  • Education and Training Directorate
  • Health Directorate
  • Justice and Community Safety Directorate

Audit Scope and Objectives

  • To provide an independent opinion to the Legislative Assembly on the efficiency and effectiveness of recruitment practices in the ACT Public Service.

Audit Criteria

  • The following key criteria were considered:
    • The level of compliance with the relevant sections of the governing legislation that relate to the efficiency and effectiveness of recruitment processes including an assessment of timeliness, potential duplication of effort and documentation;
    • Deviations from relevant better practice guidance.

Main Audit Findings

  • ACT Public Service recruitment practices are overall effective and generally comply with key requirements of the Public Sector Management Act 1994. However, there are shortcomings that need to be addressed and improvements need to be made to the efficiency of recruitment practices and the management of higher duties (acting) arrangements.
  • ACT Government agencies use a range of appropriate methods to attract a suitable pool of applicants and provide opportunities for Equal Employment Opportunity groups. In 2011-12 ACT Government agencies generally improved the timeliness of their recruitment process, when compared to 2010-11. However, no agency is meeting the ACT Government time-to-hire target of 40 days.
  • The Chief Minister and Cabinet Directorate’s Recruitment in the ACT Public Service Guidance document has given, and continues to give, strong support to guiding recruitment processes and achieving consistency in ACT Government agencies. However, it needs to be strengthened by incorporating all current practices and mandatory requirements.
  • There are shortcomings in agencies’ recruitment practices in that there is minimal formal consideration of agency workforce and strategic planning when undertaking recruitment activities and a common oversight in all agencies of not documenting the initial considerations as to whether or not there is a genuine need to recruit at all.
  • While agencies were found to generally comply with the legislative and better practice requirements that relate to record-keeping for recruitment there were some shortcomings in all agencies examined where documentation was found to be incomplete, lacking in detail and in some instances not existing at all.
  • The processes relevant to higher duties (acting) arrangements with respect to delegations and the use of standard forms and templates were appropriate. However, it was difficult to form an opinion on the appropriateness of the decision-making process due to shortcomings in documentation and record-keeping.
  • A significant proportion of higher duties (acting) arrangements were extended for more than six months without the mandatory merit-based selection process. There were also a significant number of instances where higher duties (acting) arrangements were approved for five or fewer days without reasons being documented. Higher duties (acting) appointments of five or fewer days need to be carefully considered given their associated administrative costs.

Selected Audit Recommendations

  • The Commissioner for Public Administration should regularly monitor and publicly report on whole-of-government recruitment activities and trends and periodically analyse whether these align with whole-of-government workforce strategies. This should specifically include higher duties (acting) arrangements.
  • The Canberra Institute of Technology, Education and Training Directorate, Health Directorate and Justice and Community Safety Directorate should:
    • improve recruitment timeliness by reviewing their agencies’ processes to identify potential opportunities for efficiencies;
    • ensure that reasons for delays in actual recruitment processes are clearly identified and documented; and
    • improve their records management and documentation of recruitment processes.
  • The Chief Minister and Cabinet Directorate should review and revise the Recruitment in the ACT Public Service guidance document to ensure that it reflects current ACT Public Service administrative practices and requirements.
  • The Chief Minister and Cabinet Directorate should develop a mechanism or process:
    • to improve ACT Government agencies’ selection committee skills. This may involve the provision of whole-of-government training opportunities and additional support and advice; and
    • to share information on better practice recruitment initiatives across the ACT Public Service and foster their broader adoption and implementation, taking into account practical issues such as workforce requirements, cost implications and new human resource systems and practices to be implemented by Shared Services Human Resources.
  • The Chief Minister and Cabinet Directorate should:
    • review ACT Public Service higher duties (acting) practices and implement procedures to ensure that higher duties (acting) arrangements beyond a six month period are merit based; and
    • provide guidance to agencies on when higher duties (acting) arrangements for five or fewer days are appropriate and what are alternative options.