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Focus On Series

Area Summary: Recruitment

Relevant Audits

Audit Office

Report Title
(click on title to access summary)

Publication date

Provincial Auditor of Saskatchewan

Public Service Commission

June 2011

Australian Capital Territory Audit Office

Australian Capital Territory Public Service Recruitment Practices

October 2012

OAG - Western Australia

New Recruits in the Western Australia Police

June 2012

Australian National Audit Office

Indigenous Employment in Australian Government Entities

May 2014

Australian National Audit Office

Recruitment and Retention of Specialist Skills for Navy

December 2014

Examples of audit objectives

  • To assess whether out-of-scope positions within the classified division were staffed, during the 12 months ended August 31, 2010, in compliance with The Public Service Act and regulations. (View report summary)
  • To provide an independent opinion to the Legislative Assembly on the efficiency and effectiveness of recruitment practices in the Public Service. (View report summary)
  • To assess whether the recruitment and training of new recruits in the Western Australia Police is efficient and effective. (View report summary)
  • To determine whether Australian Government entities were implementing effective strategies to support increased Indigenous employment. (View report summary)
  • To examine the effectiveness of Navy’s strategy for recruiting and retaining personnel with specialist skills. (View report summary)

Examples of audit criteria

  • The audit expected:
    • The Public Service Commission (PSC) and ministries to communicate the availability of positions for all competitive appointments.
    • PSC and ministries to evaluate if the reasons for staffing a position without a competitive process complied with the authorities and document why.
    • PSC and ministries to document the results of appraising candidates through screening, assessment, and key reference responses to show the candidate had merit.
    • PSC would assign authority (where authority was delegated) for staffing in writing and clearly set out the roles and responsibilities for staffing of each party.
    • PSC would ensure it had sufficient documentation to show compliance with staffing authorities. (View report summary)
  • Strategies are in place that encourage Indigenous applicants, support their career development and contribute to the Australian Government target of 2.7 per cent Indigenous representation by 2015. (View report summary)
  • Human resource systems operate to collect meaningful, accurate and relevant Indigenous employment data which is used to inform practices and refine strategies. (View report summary)
  • Navy has suitable plans, policies and procedures in place to support its recruitment and retention of personnel with specialist skills. (View report summary)
  • Navy has identified shortfalls in personnel with specialist skills, giving particular regard to Navy’s future capability, and is addressing these shortfalls. (View report summary)
  • Navy’s recruitment and retention activities are supported by expert advice, research and analysis, legislative and procedural guidance, and training for staff involved. (View report summary)
  • Navy monitors and evaluates the outcomes and cost effectiveness of its recruitment and retention strategies, policies and activities. (View report summary)

Examples of evidence gathering and analysis techniques

  • Holding discussions with the Treasury Directorate and key recruitment personnel within the selected agencies and documenting a walkthrough of their recruitment process. (View report summary)
  • Conducted fieldwork visits to a number of Navy bases to interview personnel from the four selected employment categories to understand the issues affecting their employment. (View report summary)
  • Reviewed relevant policies, strategies, plans, manuals and reviews. (View report summary)
  • Collection and analysis of data from the Australian Public Service Employment Database. (View report summary)
  • Examining a sample of appointments, promotions, contractors and transfers in all of the agencies included in the audit. (View report summary)
  • Reviewing selection process documentation, personnel files, training and appraisal information and complaints and internal affairs records. (View report summary)
  • In addition to document review, data analysis and conducting interviews, an extensive on-line survey was sent to all sworn officers to gather their views. (View report summary)
  • Analyzing the implementation of recruitment and retention initiatives broadly across Navy, and specifically within four employment categories. (View report summary)

Examples of findings

  • During the 12 months ended August 31, 2010, out-of-scope classified positions were staffed in compliance with The Public Service Act and regulations. (View report summary)
  • Although the Public Service Commission (PSC) expects documentation, it did not clearly set out what documents it expected managers to keep when staffing out-of-scope positions. (View report summary)
  • The audit did not find evidence that PSC verified the completeness of staffing documentation. If documentation is not complete, PSC cannot readily demonstrate that its staffing processes complied with the Act and regulations and that appointments were made based on merit. (View report summary)
  • 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. (View report summary)
  • 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. (View report summary)
  • 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. (View report summary)
  • 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. (View report summary)
  • 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. (View report summary)
  • In 2009-10, Western Australia Police (WAP) was set a target by government to increase its police numbers by 500 by 2013-14. So far, WAP has achieved its interim targets. In order to achieve the overall target WAP needs to recruit 200 officers in the next two years. Based on current application rates WAP is unlikely to meet this target. WAP is considering alternative recruitment options. (View report summary)
  • Achieving the Australian Government’s overall target of 2.7 per cent Indigenous representation in the Australian Government public sector by 2015 is unlikely, based on current data and trends. (View report summary)
  • WAP is not meeting its diversity targets for recruiting from indigenous and culturally diverse backgrounds despite having strategies in place to do so. (View report summary)
  • WAP has increased the percentage of women officers from 13 per cent in 2001 to almost 21 per cent in 2011. This has been achieved in part by removing selection tools which were biased against women. However, its proportion of female police officers falls short of its target of 30 per cent and is one of the lowest compared to other Australian and New Zealand police forces. (View report summary)
  • WAP uses its ‘22 dimensions of a police officer’ developed in 1987 as the basis for selecting suitable police recruits. The environment and issues faced by police have changed since 1987, but WAP has not reviewed the relevance and use of the 22 dimensions and needs to do so. (View report summary)
  • The experience recruits gain on probation varies because the number and location of placements are not consistent and levels of supervision vary. Some recruits miss out on spending time in key areas they may later work in. There are often not enough experienced supervisors for all recruits so some probationers are supervised by recently appointed constables. (View report summary)
  • ‘Early-off probation’ (EOP) was introduced as a reward for high performers, however this has now become the norm. Although completing early enables the officers to be fully deployed, and to supervise other probationary constables, it reduces the time for them to build skills, confidence and experience. EOP has been awarded in some instances when training records indicated that constables may not have been ready. (View report summary)
  • Entities examined in detail, with some exception, had in place current, Indigenous‐specific plans which provided a variety of strategies and initiatives for the recruitment and retention of employees. The ability to monitor and report against these plans was however, limited. This was due, again with some exceptions, to the development of plans in isolation of broader workforce planning or business imperatives and resources required; initiatives implemented with few qualitative or quantitative performance measures linked to the intent of the initiative; and a lack of relevant coding in human resource (HR) systems to generate reports. (View report summary)
  • Long‐standing personnel shortfalls in a number of ‘critical’ employment categories have persisted, and Navy has largely relied on retention bonuses as a short to medium‐term retention strategy. Despite the overall reduction in the number of Navy critical employment categories, three of the remaining 13 critical categories have been critical for 15 years and Navy does not expect seven of these categories to recover within the next 10 years. (View report summary)
  • Navy has not systematically assessed the impact of recruitment and retention initiatives to help shape its overall workforce strategy and improve the design of initiatives. Of particular note, Navy has not formally evaluated the impact of its retention bonuses despite making over 22 000 payments totaling some $311 million in the past decade. (View report summary)

Examples of recommendations

  • The Public Service Commission should establish and communicate minimum documentation requirements to evidence that appointments to out-of-scope positions within the public service are made based on merit. (View report summary)
  • The Chief Minister and Cabinet Directorate should review ACT Public Service acting practices and implement procedures to ensure that acting arrangements beyond a six month period are merit based. (View report summary)
  • The Commissioner for Public Administration should regularly monitor and publicly report on whole-of-government recruitment activities and trends and periodically analyze whether these align with whole-of-government workforce strategies. This should specifically include acting arrangements. (View report summary)
  • The Institute and Directorates 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. (View report summary)
  • 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. (View report summary)
  • The Chief Minister and Cabinet Directorate should develop a mechanism or process 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 and cost implications. (View report summary)
  • To improve the effectiveness of its recruitment Western Australia Police should:
    • consider strategies to increase its application rates in order to meet future recruitment targets;
    • review whether its 22 dimensions are still the most relevant criteria for selecting police officers and whether they should be equally balanced;
    • review its diversity strategies and consider initiatives that are working in other policing jurisdictions to improve its performance in this area. (View report summary)
  • To improve the effectiveness and efficiency of recruit training in the Academy Western Australia Police should:
    • review its approach to managing its weaker performers, including how it uses its removal process;
    • use the data and information currently collected to establish benchmarking for competency;
    • consider introducing additional assessments for recruits who have difficulty attaining competency in critical skills, to be confident that all recruits graduate with the expected level of competency. (View report summary)
  • To improve the effectiveness and efficiency of probationary training Western Australia Police should review how it applies its ‘early-off probation’ policy to ensure the policy intention is adhered to. (View report summary)