The following section reports on the performance of the fee-related services we provided in 2016–17.
Inquiries into breaches of the Code of Conduct
Following amendments to the Public Service Act in 2013 the Merit Protection Commissioner may inquire into and determine, on a fee-for-service basis, whether an APS employee or a former employee has breached the Code of Conduct when a request is made by the agency head (section 50A). An inquiry must have the written agreement of the employee or former employee.
Table M9 (see appendix) sets out the Code of Conduct caseload for 2016–17.
Two cases were on hand at 1 July 2016 and eight more were received during the year. One case was withdrawn because the employee did not consent to the inquiry. In seven of the eight cases that were finalised we determined that the employee or former employee had breached the Code of Conduct. In the remaining case, we found that the employee had not breached the Code of Conduct.
The misconduct cases investigated were serious and complex and included allegations of inappropriate use of social media; aggressive behaviour towards colleagues and managers; performance of regulatory functions in a way that had the potential to bring the agency into disrepute; conflicts of interest in procurement and arising from a relationship in the workplace; and installing prohibited software on the agency’s ICT system, creating an IT security risk. One case was on hand at 30 June 2017.
Feedback from agencies on the timeliness and quality of the inquiry work and decision-making has been positive.
Independent selection advisory committees and fee-for-service activity
The Merit Protection Commissioner establishes independent selection advisory committees (ISACs) to help agencies’ recruitment processes. ISACs undertake a staff selection exercise on behalf of an agency and make recommendations about the relative suitability of candidates for jobs at the APS 1–6 classifications.
An ISAC consists of a convenor nominated by the Merit Protection Commissioner and two other members, one nominated by us and one nominated by the agency. ISACs work within agency recruitment policies and can accommodate a range of selection assessment techniques.
Agency demand for ISACs was maintained in 2016–17 reflecting the overall upturn in APS recruitment in 2015–16. Five agencies used ISACs. The 11 ISACs finalised in 2016–17 considered 2,098 candidates, of whom 193 were recommended—an average of 190 candidates and 17 recommendations per ISAC, compared with an average of 215 candidates and 54 recommendations in 2015–16. The largest recruitment exercise was 620 candidates for positions in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Table M10 (see appendix) provides information on ISAC activity for 2016–17 compared with that for 2015–16.
Other fee-for-service work
In accordance with Regulation 7.4, the Merit Protection Commissioner is able to provide other fee-for-service activities such as staff selection services and investigating grievances to non APS-agencies. In recent years, this work has consisted of providing members of selection panels for the Australian Federal Police (AFP). In 2016–17, employees of the Merit Protection Commissioner conducted two selection exercises for the AFP.
Norfolk Island fee-for-service activity
In December 2015, the Merit Protection Commissioner accepted an appointment as Norfolk Island Public Service Commissioner. Review services were provided on a fee-for-service basis. This appointment ended on 30 June 2016 and reporting requirements under the Norfolk Island Public Service Act 2014 were fulfilled.