Opinion – Another day

Another report, another hit. The Audit Commission (CA, in its Portuguese acronym) has just released a report on the centralized recruitment system for the public services. As so often in the past, the relevant services involved do not come out brightly from the report’s conclusions. 

In this case, the target is the Service for Administration and Public Service (SAFP), in charge of the centralized recruitment process.

That service implemented, from 2011 on, new recruitment principles and orientations established in 2009. However, the CA concluded their implementation was limited and unsatisfactory. Further, the results achieved stood below expectations and acceptable standards — not the most cheerful assessment.

The rules were changed in 2016 to address perceived shortcomings in the recruitment process set in 2011. Outcomes were not much improved. The report says they were even worse.

A few verdicts stand up. The central services did not cooperate with the recruiting services. The target services were often not involved, and SAFP ignored the specific functional requirements of those services (that is, the job descriptions). If such a mismatch happened once or twice, it would be surprising. That such pattern of behavior occurred over several years without, apparently, corrections or consequences, is hard to understand. 

Recruitment processes were a waste of money and administrative and human resources, the CA states. Costs with the recruitment process were high; procedures were slow, and long delays were common. Possibly, as a result, the attendance of written tests by the candidates was much below the expectations. Less than 40 percent of applicants would show up, as a rule. 

On a damning note, the report concludes that SAFP “never had a clear notion about the recruitment needs of public services.” Further, it was unable to assist the other services,” and their “lack of organization caused severe problems” for them. 

Among the recommendations, two stand out: “to abandon bad management habits,” and to start “taking reality” into account. 

Unfortunately, nothing of this sounds too surprising. Over the years, report after report on various public services kept piling up comments and conclusions that ought to be startling.  Well, we would be shocked had we not lost the ability to be shocked by repetition.

The government, as it is usual, said it would study, accept, and abide by the conclusions and recommendations. If the past is a guide, we must not expect any sudden changes.