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ASSESSING THE USE OF THE MERIT PRINCIPLE
THE AUDIT PROCESS AND AUDIT PROGRAM
1.1. What is the purpose of the merit principle?
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?
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
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,
- 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
2.2. What is the goal of the audit
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
2.3. What is the relation between the audit program and PSERC
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
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
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
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