Suspected nepotism/malpractice in public sector recruitment

Associate
Joined
21 Jun 2018
Posts
2
I have some concerns regarding a recent interview process at a university where I work. There has certainly been some unethical activity but I wonder if anything could actually be illegal. Circumstances are laid out below.

1) A person in the position of SCRUM master (agile project manager) on a high paying two year contract is departing and a replacement is immediately sought. The post is advertised only INTERNALLY and only for 6 DAYS (this isn't a realistic amount of time to garner interest, let alone write and submit an application).

2) The job spec specified that the successful applicant must possess the SCRUM master qualification which can be attained in a week. Only 3 people possess this qualification within the organisation at this time. All have been sent on the training course by the current SCRUM master (the individual who is leaving). Person 1 has recently been appointed to a senior role and so can be considered ineligible (this person is also on the interview panel). Person 2 is on maternity leave and has announced her departure from the organisation. Person 3 is a close friend of the departing SCRUM master and recently attained the qualification on his advice and under his supervision.

3) The departing SCRUM master was involved in shortlisting and was on the interview panel. It has been an open secret at the organisation that he favours Person 3 for the role and he has previously said off record that only 3 people are eligible for the role based on the information above.

4) After 6 days, the advert was removed and I have been informed that Person 3 has been awarded the job and that there was one other interviewee. I know this interviewee is neither Persons 1 or 2.

5) The job spec states that essential criteria amongst other things is the SCRUM qualification and project manager experience as well as experience of working as a SCRUM master. Person 3 does not possess project manager experience and has not worked as a SCRUM master so they certainly fail to meet that criteria. I suspect that the second interviewee would have possessed project manager experience but lacked the SCRUM qualification (which can be attained in a week). Since noone in the organisation could have met all of this criteria, I question the logic of advertising internally.

6) Person 3 was recently awarded a pay grade raise (from grade 5 to 6) by the departing SCRUM master on the grounds that they manage staff (Person 3 managed one person in former role and was received very badly).

7) Now that Person 3 has been awarded the role of SCRUM master, they have risen 4 pay grades in a period less than 2 years under the tutelage of the outgoing SCRUM master. To give perspective, this is around £29k to £60k in the period. This is unheard of at the organisation. It could not be argued that Person 3 has performed in a way that would warrant such a rapid progression.

I wonder if anyone has experienced something like this before in a public sector organisation? I'm certain that it's favouritism and know that to be commonplace in the private sector but I do wonder if there is anything that could be challenged here.

Thanks to anyone that takes the time to read this. I appreciate your help.
 
Soldato
Joined
6 Mar 2008
Posts
10,065
Location
Stoke area
my initial question is: how has this affected you?

In my experience, there's always some butt munching face fits kiss ass that jumps ahead when there are a) better harder working candidates or b) they just don't have what it takes. Nothing you can really do about it.
 
Associate
Joined
21 Jun 2018
Posts
2
The only aspect that affects me is that I will inherit the responsibility of the promoted person (i was not interested in the role in question). I suspect they'll now disregard that position (it was on an increased pay grade) and will expect the responsibility to be absorbed by me on existing salary.
 
Caporegime
Joined
23 Dec 2011
Posts
29,598
Location
Northern England
Sounds about right. I've come to realise it's absolutely rife.

A couple of years back I was applying for positions in the NHS and started to notice a trend whereby the adverts would have a very strange requirement. Like a qualification that just didn't make sense.

A prime example was a PM position that required a very specific IT qualification but it wasn't related to IT at all.

I mentioned this to a friend of mine and he said it's often done because they already have the person in mind - they just put the person through a completely unnecessary course for a qualification that they know no other applicant for that position will have so that they can justify appointing their chosen person. Normally a friend or relative or relative of a friend etc.

Another example was a GP practice where when of the owning partners had an affair with the secretary. Next thing you know she's appointed to a partner position within the practice!
 

EVH

EVH

Caporegime
Joined
11 Mar 2004
Posts
30,189
Location
Wales
Sounds about right. I've come to realise it's absolutely rife.

A couple of years back I was applying for positions in the NHS and started to notice a trend whereby the adverts would have a very strange requirement. Like a qualification that just didn't make sense.

A prime example was a PM position that required a very specific IT qualification but it wasn't related to IT at all.

I mentioned this to a friend of mine and he said it's often done because they already have the person in mind - they just put the person through a completely unnecessary course for a qualification that they know no other applicant for that position will have so that they can justify appointing their chosen person. Normally a friend or relative or relative of a friend etc.

Another example was a GP practice where when of the owning partners had an affair with the secretary. Next thing you know she's appointed to a partner position within the practice!

This was one of the reasons why I left the NHS.

In my time there, I was pushing to be promoted but was constantly told that the team couldn't support it (this was despite 2 individuals on the same wage as me leaving the organisation, so the wage bill was massively down). Some months later the head of the department announced a reshuffle, so I hung around on the hope that it would mean a promotion. My existing line manager verbally told me that there is a high chance that a new role would be created, senior to where I was... awesome.

At the time, our H&S team looked like this....

Head (8B)
2x Team Manager (7) <-- My manager
2x Advisor (6) <-- Me

Pay bands
8B
8A <--- New role
7
6

Fast forward 6 months and the internal advert came out for a new Band 8A role (circa £40-50k), so I considered applying given that I already possed all the qualifications and experience to make me suitable for the 8B role. I would jump 2 bands if I secured the job, so I wanted to apply. Note: the role I was doing was a band 7 at Cardiff, so in reality I was underpaid anyway....

In reading the guidance on the NHS site it said that you'd need a MSc for the role which meant I was the only person that could realistically apply. After I queried this with my line manager the advert suddenly and mysteriously changed to include "or suitable experience".

With the not-so-secret pending departure of the head of department, I figured that my line manager (25 years+ in the team) was always destined for the 8A role as a stepping stone to department head. This role would essentially mean he could shadow the head for the next 12 months with a view to going up to head himself.

I never expected to get the job over him anyway, but it was the fact they made it seem like a fair race and had gone against the "no promotion available" that left a bitter taste in my mouth. Had they promoted him without dangling the carrot to our team then I wouldn't have been so bothered.

Anyway, I told the department head and my line manager that I wouldn't interview for the role and justify their one-horse race, and I still believe they interviewed anyone else that applied just to demonstrate it was fair. No disrespect to anyone that does it but the role needed specialist qualifications and experience... anyone outside of our team, it was extremely unlikely anyone else could apply, yet they interviewed maintenance men for the sake of a "fair process" :rolleyes:

No surprise, he got the role and was promoted whilst I was stuck at the lower band. This then left me 2 bands below him, knowing that I was doing a job that paid 1 band higher at neighbouring health boards. Shortly after he was appointed, I left the organisation on principle (and I'd found something closer to home anyway) and now he's assumed the role of department head.

The irony is, by leaving they've now upgraded my old role to a 7 and added some support staff, so in effect got the structure I would have been happy with.. oh well!
 
Associate
Joined
4 Jan 2010
Posts
602
In a private organisation, someone would just get promoted without any further explanation. In my job I have been promoted twice in four years without having to go through an interview process.

While in the public sector there needs to be a justification, through scoring during the application and interview process, even though there is already an obvious capable candidate in the organisation.

One could argue that public sector bodies should be able to promote candidates based on already demonstrated abilities effectively they have been interviewing for the new job since the day they started. Where is the motivation to work hard in your job if promotion only depends on how you perform in an interview compared to everyone else?
 
Associate
Joined
14 Apr 2014
Posts
2,489
Location
West London
This stuff doesnt just happen in the public sector - it's rife in big business as well - especially in the management slices in the middle of an organisation
 
Caporegime
Joined
12 Mar 2004
Posts
29,789
Location
England
This stuff doesnt just happen in the public sector - it's rife in big business as well - especially in the management slices in the middle of an organisation

This is true, but it's not inherently immoral to do that with your own money. Using tax money to do it however should not be tolerated!
 
Soldato
Joined
18 Oct 2002
Posts
24,858
Yes it's bad and against the spirit of the rules, but I'm not sure what you're going to be able to do about it. You don't want to have a fight with your employer and then plan on sticking around afterwards.
 
Associate
Joined
5 Apr 2004
Posts
1,077
I know this isn't the point of your message but.

A scrum master isn't an agile project manager, I know it's a comman example given but if that's what the organisations expects then they should just call them a project manager and not a scrum master.

Secondly, getting certified as a scrum master doesn't make you a scrum master or mean you're more capable as one... Advertising for a requirement as a csm is either lazy or done by a business that doesn't know the skills and experiences required for the role.

Someone new to working with scrum teams getting up to 60k is ridiculous.
 

Pez

Pez

Soldato
Joined
20 Oct 2002
Posts
4,979
Location
Warwickshire
I know this isn't the point of your message but.

A scrum master isn't an agile project manager, I know it's a comman example given but if that's what the organisations expects then they should just call them a project manager and not a scrum master.

Secondly, getting certified as a scrum master doesn't make you a scrum master or mean you're more capable as one... Advertising for a requirement as a csm is either lazy or done by a business that doesn't know the skills and experiences required for the role.

Someone new to working with scrum teams getting up to 60k is ridiculous.

Absolutely this - Massively overpaid, under experienced and from the looks of things, the employer doesn’t understand scrum roles.
 
Soldato
Joined
12 Dec 2006
Posts
4,348
...I wonder if anyone has experienced something like this before in a public sector organisation? ...

Yes fairly common.

Advertised and interviewed for X no of roles, actually promoted X+(no of Cronies)
Job spec and interview tightly defined to suit only a very small group of people.
Promotions and salary increases, blocked through embargo, which is the excuse for slow progress through the organisation.
Yet the same handful of people had a rapid promotion through grades and thus salary.
When in new role, the people do not have business knowledge to do their new role. Thus have to constantly ask questions of the people who they bypassed.
People bypassed, move to where they can get promoted, and the business knowledge leaves the team they left.

It seems to be team/manager/director specific. So if you move team, change chain of management you report to, you can avoid all this.
 
Soldato
Joined
7 Jul 2011
Posts
4,413
Location
Cambridgeshire
On the flip side I've had roles created to give me an opportunity to progress within a public sector organisation (there was a need for the role but it wouldn't have been created without me pushing), but then been told by my boss that the advert will be open internally, applications and interviews would be moderated by HR to limit the risk of bias and that, whilst I was their preferred candidate without a shot being fired, if I underperformed during the application or interview process they would pick the person who beat me to the post.

I suppose I'm trying to add balance by saying some people do follow procedure.

On the flip I've seen managers mysteriously be re-appointed after an absence with minimal recruitment process only for the bulk of their old team to somehow follow them in the same way. Now that is dodgy.

It's about a bit of balance really, public sector are partially hamstrung by regulation and I've been tapped up by former bosses to come and apply for jobs because they know a) I'll perform well at interview and likely get the job and b) that I'm capable. From their point of view they want to work with strong candidates with whom they have a proven track record, much like the private sector. This is also rife in interim placement but that really is a minefield of crap candidates at the moment in certain disciplines. Cronyism is a problem but then so is being tricked into appointing a muppet because they know how to ace your interview process.
 
Soldato
Joined
19 Jan 2006
Posts
14,576
Strange first couple of posts on a computer forum.....

But I agree - if it's nothing to do with you, and you haven't applied for the role, nor wanted it....what's the issue?
 
Soldato
Joined
13 Sep 2008
Posts
5,101
Happens all the time... Surprised your surprised! The adage "it's not what you know it's who you know" exists for a reason.
 
Soldato
Joined
22 Jul 2006
Posts
7,686
Happens all the time... Surprised your surprised! The adage "it's not what you know it's who you know" exists for a reason.

I just came in here to post exactly the same thing. Out of interest OP are you recently venturing into employment or have you been working some time?

Up until recently I have never once had an interview for a job with the last one earning me a package over £50k last year, fully expenses car etc etc...only by changing career into the Police have I had to interview, however I suspect the promotions will be very similar in that as long as you have the required qualifications those in the know will very much get it over others who may not be so pally with them above.
 
Caporegime
Joined
9 Aug 2008
Posts
30,549
Location
127.0.0.1
Jobs have always been like this. It is rife and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

People on the interview panel MAKE it happen whatever they want.
 
Associate
Joined
19 Jan 2010
Posts
2,101
Location
Reading
seems to be standard in the public sector.
at my current place you usually can tell if it is a genuine opening or if they have earmarked someone for post just by reading the advert requirements :rolleyes:
 
Top Bottom