Top civil service jobs are a closed shop

ONLY one person from the private sector has secured a high-level post in the civil service in the past five years.

Details provided by the Department of Finance reveal the civil service remains all but a closed shop to private sector workers for most senior vacancies, despite the Government’s promise to increase the number of people recruited from outside the state sector.

The figures show of 314 applications from private sector workers, just one secured a top-level position – representing a 0.3% success rate. Private sector workers make-up 20% of the total number of applicants.

Open competitions for 82 vacancies at senior level, including secretary general, deputy and assistant secretaries, have been held in the past five years with just one candidate from outside the public service appointed.

Only 15 of the 82 vacancies were filled by people outside the relevant Government department with internal promotions accounting for 82% of placements.

Despite the stark figures, Ciarán Connolly, assistant secretary at the Department of Finance told a Dáil committee last month there was “significant enough” outside expertise being recruited into the civil service. However, he said he did not believe the number of people hired from the private sector could be regarded “as the measure of success”.

Secretary general of the Department of Finance, Kevin Cardiff, said he was disappointed with the general quality of applicants from the private sector for top civil service jobs.

“Overall, the proportion of external candidates with the levels of management experience and competencies... has been lower than one might have hoped for,” said Mr Cardiff.

While open competitions have always been held for entry grade levels to the civil service, they were expanded in recent years as part of social partnership agreements to include vacancies for higher grades such as principal officer, assistant principal officer and higher executive officer.

The Towards 2016 agreement stated “the greater use of open recruitment is essential to... attract staff with the wide range of skills and experience needed in a modern public administration”. It stipulated 22% of all vacancies at principal officer, 20% at assistant principal officer and 16.5% at higher executive officer should be filled by applicants from outside the civil service. No targets have been set for the recruitment of private sector workers for senior positions.

Despite the low level of recruitment from the private sector, the Commission for Public Service Appointments, which regulates recruitment and appointment processes to the civil service, has expressed satisfaction with how people are hired for state jobs.

The most recent open competition was held in 2007 for 12 posts as principal officer from over 1,200 applicants. A total of 36 civil servants and 20 non-civil servants were listed for the second stage but just three positions were filled by private sector applicants.

However, Mr Cardiff said the recruitment rate of non-civil servants for the posts exceeded the 22% target.


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