Appointment Process Investigations

Table of contents

Appointments to the federal public service

To appoint a person to a position in the federal public service, an organization may use various staffing mechanisms such as an external or internal appointment process.

An external appointment process is a process for making one or more appointments in which persons may be considered, whether or not they are employed in the federal public service. This type of appointment process is open to the public, including federal public servants.

An internal appointment process is a process for making one or more appointments in which only persons employed in the federal public service may be considered. This type of appointment process is open only to federal public servants.

Public Service Commission investigations

The Public Service Commission (PSC) may investigate external appointment processes when:

  • An appointment or proposed appointment may not have been based on merit
  • There may have been an error, omission or improper conduct that affected the selection of the person appointed or proposed for appointment

The PSC may investigate external and internal appointment processes when:

  • Fraud may have occurred
  • An appointment or proposed appointment may not have been free from political influence

An organization that is subject to the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) may also request that the PSC investigate an internal appointment when there may have been an error, omission or improper conduct that affected the selection of the person appointed or proposed for appointment.

Fraud (s.69 of the PSEA)

Investigating fraud in an appointment process

Only the PSC can investigate fraud in appointment processes. This exclusive authority is granted to the PSC under section 69 of the PSEA.

What is fraud in an appointment process?

Any dishonest action that could have compromised the appointment process may be considered fraud. The following are examples of fraud previously investigated by the PSC:

  • Falsification of documentation, such as proof of education and second language evaluation results
  • Misrepresentation of qualifications, such as education and work experience
  • Unauthorized access to assessment material
  • Cheating, such as bringing unauthorized material to an exam, copying from another candidate or sharing assessment information between candidates
  • Plagiarizing, such as copying and pasting information from a source without reference, contrary to assessment instructions

Merit, error, omission and improper conduct (s.66 of the PSEA)

The PSC may investigate any external appointment process to determine if an appointment was not made or proposed to be made on the basis of merit, or that an error, an omission or improper conduct affected the selection of the person appointed or proposed for appointment.

Appointments not made on the basis of merit

An appointment is made on the basis of merit when a person meets the essential qualifications for the work to be performed, as established by the deputy head, including official language proficiency. Any current or future asset qualifications, operational requirements, and organizational needs as identified by the deputy head may also be considered.

There are many instances where an appointment may not be made on the basis of merit. For example:

  • The person appointed does not meet one or more of the essential qualifications
  • The person does not have the required level of education
  • The person does not meet the second language proficiency of the position

Error or omission in an appointment process

An error or omission can affect the selection of a person appointed to a position following an appointment process. The following are examples of errors or omissions previously investigated by the PSC:

  • Lack of evidence that an appointee met each of the essential qualifications
  • Incomplete assessment (e.g. qualification not assessed)
  • Inconsistencies in assessment
  • Failure to consider a person with a priority entitlement

Improper conduct in an appointment process

In the context of its investigations, the PSC defines improper conduct as unsuitable behaviour, whether by action or inaction, in relation to an appointment process.

The following are examples of improper conduct previously investigated by the PSC:

  • Failing to disclose a relationship between a board member and a candidate
  • Tailoring qualifications or the process to a specific individual (e.g. experience, education, linguistic profile)
  • A series of errors or omissions and the magnitude of an error can also amount to improper conduct
  • Changing or designing the assessment strategy to benefit a candidate

Errors, omissions or improper conduct in internal appointment processes (s. 15(3), 67(1), and 67(2) of the PSEA)

Deputy heads can investigate errors, omissions or improper conduct in an internal appointment process. This authority is granted to deputy heads under s. 15(3) of the PSEA.

The Public Service Commission (PSC) can investigate errors, omissions or improper conduct at the request of a deputy head under s. 67(2) of the PSEA or in instances where the appointment authority is not delegated to the deputy head (s. 67(1) of the PSEA).

Certain concerns regarding internal appointment processes do not fall under the jurisdiction of the PSC or deputy heads but may fall under the jurisdiction of the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board.

Political influence (s. 68 of the PSEA)

Only the PSC can investigate political influence in an appointment process. This exclusive authority is granted to the PSC under section 68 of the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA).

For the purpose of its investigations, the PSC defines political influence as follows: “To conclude that an appointment was not free from political influence, the evidence must show, on the balance of probabilities that the appointment process was not without effect of actions from individuals such as those from the office of a minister or a Member of Parliament.”

For examples of appointment process investigations by the PSC, please visit our investigation summaries web page.