Now even easier to land a highly paid NT public service job: no questions asked

by | Apr 23, 2020 | News, NT Politics | 1 comment

The NT public service is hiring more bureaucrats through a new “simplified recruitment” process during the coronavirus pandemic that does not require an interview for highly-paid, executive positions.

One top new advertised job is chief spin doctor in the Health Department, a position paying $217,533 a year.

The new rules mean the successful applicant for the “director media marketing and communication” position could be awarded the lucrative job without being interviewed or even providing “relevant information” about their suitability for the position.

An internal whole-of-government document called “6 quick steps to simplified recruitment” seen by the NT Independent shows interviews are no longer mandatory and that “obtaining work samples or other relevant information” about a candidate should only be “considered”. Strangely, while phone interviews aren’t mandatory, the rules state that referees should be contacted.

It’s unclear how the public service can assess the merit of one candidate over another without an interview or collecting relevant past-work experience.

Independent MLA Scott McConnell called the new hiring rules “unacceptable” and called on the government to only hire temporarily until the proper processes could be put back in place.

“There’s already a perception of nepotism in the public service,” he said. “There isn’t widespread nepotism, but we need to make sure actions we take in this crisis ensure that remains the case. Any removal of formal interview processes, and not formally checking past work experience is unacceptable.

“There is a public health emergency and a need for social distancing, but there is an appropriate minimum standard for hiring and if it can’t be met, hiring should be suspended and keys roles that need to be hired should only be temporary until key requirements can be met.”

The new NT public service recruitment rules were enacted just months after it was revealed the government had hired more than 200 people last year without publicly advertising the jobs and while a staffing cap to reduce expenditure was in place.

Those jobs were filled under a legislative loophole that allows departments to fill roles – sometime highly-paid senior positions – provided somebody determines the candidate can fulfill the requirements of the role and permission is granted by the public employment commissioner.

This is known as the Alf Leonardi loophole after the Chief Minister’s former chief-of-staff was awarded a job in the Education department earlier this year that was not advertised and not filled for months.

The latest State of the Service report by public employment commissioner Vicki Telfer, released late last year, showed the public service added 572 positions in the last financial year, despite the Gunner Government’s claims of a staffing cap and 300 positions being axed.

NT Police, Fire and Emergency Services was one of only a few departments that lost positions – 70 in total.

The Education Department and Territory Families filled the most positions, which the government claimed were “predominantly” frontline positions.

Questions about the new easy rules for hiring in the public service were sent to the Office of the Commissioner for Public Employment but have not been answered.

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