Watchdog targets tardy recruiters
ACT Auditor-General Maxine Cooper says agencies sometimes even failed to document why a new recruit was needed. Photo: Stuart Walmsley
ACT government agencies take almost 11 weeks to decide who should fill a job vacancy.
The public service watchdog has criticised the lengthy wait, saying the average time of 54.3 working days is far longer than the government's target of 40 days.
ACT Auditor-General Maxine Cooper's report also warned that some workplaces were paying staff higher-duties allowances without documenting the reason.
Her audit identified "a significant number of instances" where staff received a higher pay rate for five or fewer days, despite a lack of evidence of the need for it.
The report, issued today, focused on recruitment practices in three government directorates as well as the Canberra Institute of Technology, but also examined data in other workplaces.
Dr Cooper found the average time-to-hire – the period between a vacancy being identified to an offer of employment being made – had improved from 62.7 working days in 2010-11 to 54.3 last financial year.
The speediest recruiter was the Economic Development Directorate (48 working days) while the worst was the CIT (62.3).
Dr Cooper warned of other shortcomings, such as a failure to consider the workplace's long-term needs when recruiting 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".
She also criticised the lack of training for staff involved in hiring, particularly members of selection committees.
Recruitment expert Ann Villiers, who wrote the best-seller How to write and talk to selection criteria, said today that poor hiring practices were often the result of a lack of commitment.
"People need to project-manage a recruitment process right from the start, and write down when certain things are going to happen, rather than approach it on an ad hoc basis. It's about making it a priority."
She said lengthy delays could harm a government agency's ability to recruit the best candidate, because "they'll just go somewhere else".
"The other by-product is a damaged reputation: why would people apply to work with you if it's well known it'll take forever to get an answer."
Dr Cooper's report also noted that, when agencies proposed to pay a staff member a higher-duties allowance for six months or more, they were required to offer the position openly on a merit basis.
However, a "large proportion of higher-duties (acting) arrangements were extended for more than six months, without evidence that a mandatory merit process was undertaken".
The audit also found "minimal use of selection committees" for higher-duties roles.
The agencies have agreed to implement all seven of Dr Cooper's recommendations to improve their recruitment practices.
The print version of this story wrongly referred to the ACT Auditor-General as a "regulator". This was a sub-editor's error.