National

Public service jobs advertised during Christmas shutdown spark complaints

Do you want to earn $120,000 a year in an office in New Acton, helping to manage employment issues in a mid-sized government agency?

The Public Service Commission recommends a job closing date of two weeks after the vacancy is first advertised.
The Public Service Commission recommends a job closing date of two weeks after the vacancy is first advertised. Photo: Supplied

If you weren't looking for this job over the Christmas break – when the office was closed, the contact officer wasn't answering calls, and most people were trying not to think about work – you might have missed it.

The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions was one of two agencies that advertised vacancies only during their end-of-year shutdown, limiting their pool of prospective recruits and giving candidates a short time to apply.

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However, both agencies – the other was the National Blood Authority – extended their application deadlines after Fairfax Media queried the process.

The DPP advertised on Christmas Eve for a "manager, people services" – an executive level 2 role that pays up to $127,000 – and gave an application deadline of January 4, effectively one working day later. An advertised link to the application website didn't work.

Also on Christmas Eve, the blood authority advertised for an "assistant finance manager" (APS level 6) and set a closing date of January 3; before its office had reopened.

Under federal law, the bureaucracy must give "a reasonable opportunity to all eligible members of the community" to apply for permanent or long-term jobs.

The Public Service Commission recommends that two weeks pass before closing applications.

As of last week, the average length of APS job advertisements was 30 days.

A DPP spokeswoman told Fairfax this week the position's advertised closing date was "an error".

"It was intended that the position remain open until January 14, 2016. This is being rectified."

The spokeswoman confirmed the position had "a person acting in the role".

"Importantly, HR are contacting applicants who commenced an application in the system to inform them of the correct closing date in response to our error," she said.

The blood authority also extended its job application deadline by seven days, in response to concerns about whether the process was open and meritorious.

A spokeswoman said the authority had advertised the assistant finance manager vacancy only briefly because it needed to be filled urgently.

Despite the short application period, she said the agency had received "an outstanding response" to the job.

"Traditionally, the [National Blood Authority] has had difficulty recruiting and attracting candidates to this role. However, on this occasion, 12 applications were received," she said.

"This will provide the NBA with a strong pool of candidates in which to source a suitable candidate."

One would-be applicant, who preferred to remain unnamed, complained about the DPP's approach, saying she felt it was "not fair, transparent or in line with public service best practice".

"How is the public service to be respected as a fair and professional organisation when agencies are allowed to get away with such blatant disrespect for proper process and disregard for merit principles?"

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