Police checks for senior jobs

01:43, Jan 31 2009

Police checks on candidates seeking high-profile public sector jobs have become routine since allegations of CV fraud were raised against the former head of the Immigration Service Mary-Anne Thompson this year.

Some Wellington human resources consultants have told The Dominion Post the allegations surrounding Ms Thompson's case resulted in changes to the way the recruitment industry conducts its business.

These changes include routine police checks for successful candidates and greater emphasis on the verification of qualifications documents.

A senior communications adviser with the State Services Commission, Marian Mortensen, said State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie had made a point of discussing recruitment issues with his 33 public service chief executives since taking up the job on July 1.

"He has advised them to make sure all the necessary checks are done before they employ people," Ms Mortensen said.

Commenting on Ms Mortensen's remarks, Wellington-based human resources consultants said there had been a real nervousness evident among their public service clients since Mr Rennie had done his round of meetings with his chief executives.

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One obvious area of change resulted in the public service requiring police checks to be undertaken on candidates whose names were put forward for middle to senior positions in the public sector.

Human resources companies submitted their police check applications through the Justice Ministry and such checks usually took about a week to complete.

The Wellington manager of Kinetic Recruitment Consultants, Sharlene Yule, said the call for routine police checks among her clients was not just limited to the public sector. "Our clients across the board are now insisting upon it.

"Just about every company we deal with now want police checks done," Ms Yule said.

Verification, particularly of documents, was also commonplace in the human resources industry at the moment.

Another human resources practitioner said police checks into the background of potential candidates were just one aspect of what was going on.

"If candidates are not prepared to undergo a police check, their names do not go forward to the client for the job.

"It is as simple as that," he said.

He said people currently going for senior positions in the state sector - in ministerial offices at Parliament, for example - were now being carefully looked at.

"We don't just accept the word of referees anymore. We want to find out what really did happen in that previous job five years ago.

"We're delving a lot deeper and asking a lot more probing questions of candidates," he said.

On November 21, Ms Thompson was charged with three counts of fraud following a police investigation into her claim that she possessed a doctorate from the London School of Economics.

The Dominion Post