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ASSESSING THE USE OF THE MERIT PRINCIPLE

THE AUDIT PROCESS AND AUDIT PROGRAM


1. INTRODUCTION:

1.1. What is the purpose of the merit principle?
The merit principle is designed to ensure that the best person is hired for a position. "Merit" means that an assessment is made which is free of patronage and based on competence and ability to do the job.

The Public Service Act requires that all appointments to and within the public service be based on the principle of merit unless the appointment is specifically exempt under Section 10 of the legislation.

The Public Service Employee Relations Commission (PSERC) has developed detailed policies for selection and recruitment that promote the use of merit for all eligible public service competitions. The policy is available for viewing at 04_01recruit.htm

1.2. Why audit completed job competitions?
In August 2001, amendments to the Public Service Act created the Office of the Merit Commissioner with the responsibility to monitor eligible public service appointments and report on whether the merit principle was properly applied. The legislation requires the use of random audits of appointments to and from within the public service to assess whether the appointments are based on merit and whether the individuals appointed possess the required qualifications for the position to which they were appointed. The use of an audit process brings rigour and objectivity to the assessment of whether merit was applied.

1.3. What is an audit?
An audit is an examination, which compares evidence of performance against predetermined criteria, with the goal of verifying and reporting the performance or results. The auditor is required to gather enough supporting and independent evidence in sufficient detail to support their conclusion. To ensure that files selected for audit are identified at random, the file selection process is done with the assistance of BC Stats using a mathematical sampling technique.

1.4. How will results from audits be reported?
The Merit Commissioner will report audit results to Deputy Ministers or other persons having overall responsibility for the ministries, boards, commissions, agencies or organizations audited.

An annual report will also be made to the Legislative Assembly. The report to the Legislative Assembly must not disclose:

  • personal information, as defined in Schedule 1 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, relating to individuals who applied for or were appointed to positions in the public service, or

  • the identity of persons who participated on behalf of the ministries, boards, commissions, agencies or organizations, as the case may be, in the selection of the individuals appointed to positions in the public service.

1.5. What happens if an audit determines that the merit principle was not applied?
The Merit Commissioner is not responsible for investigating individual competitions or hearing complaints or appeals respecting the competition process. Appeals respecting the competition process continue to come under the authority of the Public Service Appeal Board. The Merit Commissioner will only review appointments after the recruitment and selection process, including appeals, is concluded.

The purpose of the audits is to determine and report on whether the merit principle was applied and whether a person(s) has the required qualifications for the position to which they were appointed. The audits will not comment on whether a competition process should be overturned in cases where the merit principle was not applied.

2. THE AUDIT PROGRAM

2.1. What is the audit program?
It is a step by step guide for the review of a competition file. By completing the audit program, an individual will systematically assess information on the file and any additional information provided by panel members or human resource advisors. This systematic review leads to a conclusion on whether the merit principle was applied and whether a person possessed the required qualifications for the position to which they were appointed.

2.2. What is the goal of the audit program?
The goal is to determine whether the actions taken in the competition process were reasonable and consistent with the use of the merit principle. The audit program only reviews information that is relevant to making a reasoned decision on whether merit was or was not applied.

2.3. What is the relation between the audit program and PSERC policy?
The audit program is only concerned with the steps in a job competition process that are directly relevant to assessing whether the merit principle was applied. The purpose of the audit is not to determine whether every aspect of PSERC recruitment and selection policy was followed.

However, there are certain PSERC policies that are fundamental to a merit based process. For example, Appendix 7 of the PSERC Policy Directive 4.1 sets out the documentation that must be retained in a job competition file. This information is directly relevant to any assessment for the use of the merit principle.

2.4. Does each step in the audit program have to be followed in sequence?
No. What matters is that all the sections of the audit program are completed before any conclusions are made about whether merit was or was not applied. The sequence of the program is designed to minimize the number of times that file documentation is handled. This makes it easier and less time consuming to complete the audit program.

2.5. Does the audit program allow for creativity in the selection process?
Yes. The program provides space for the auditor to describe the process followed and any exceptions. The audit considers whether all applicants were assessed against the mandatory selection criteria using a process that was fair and consistent. While it does not assume that all competition processes will be structured the same way, it does assume that competitions will have certain aspects in common. This includes but is not limited to: job descriptions; a statement of mandatory selection criteria; consistent and accurate job posting information; a consistently administered process that assesses candidates' experience, education, knowledge and skills in relation to (at a minimum) mandatory selection criteria, and clear and properly communicated selection decisions.


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