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ACCOUNT of INSURANCES effected in CUSTOMS FUND in Years 1855, 1856, and 1857.
Customs' Fund Office, 26th January 1858.
The number of individuals nominated by your Lordships for junior situations in this department, yet on examination rejected as disqualified by the Civil Service Commissioners, continues to be large, though considerably smaller in proportion than last year*; yet we are not prepared to say that as a whole the examinations are too severe, the standard of attainment too high, or the rejections in any way unmerited. The test, however, though unquestionably successful in keeping out of the service the absolutely ignorant and incompetent, yet, as bearing merely upon intellectual qualifications, and, among these, rather on intellectual attainments than on intellectual capacity, is obviously an incomplete one. There are, however, some points in the system of civil service certificates, as now obtaining, on which we are desirous of offering a few observations and suggestions.
By Her Majesty's Order in Council dated the 21st of May 1855, Commissioners were appointed for conducting the examination of young men proposed to be appointed to any of the junior situations in the civil establishments, and it is thereby ordered, "that all "such young men, before being 'admitted to probation,' "shall be examined by or under the directions of the "said Commissioners, and receive from them a certifi"cate of qualification"; and among other particulars to be enquired into the Commissioners are directed "to "ascertain that the character of the candidate is such
as to qualify him for public employment," and it is prescribed that "after the candidate has passed his "examination and received his certificate of qualifica"tion from the Commissioners, he shall enter on a
period of probation, during which his conduct and "capacity in the transaction of business shall be sub
jected to such tests as may be determined by the "chief of the department for which he is intended, and "he shall not be finally appointed to the public service "unless upon satisfactory proofs of his fitness being
*The nominations in 1857 were 610; the candidates examined 431, out of whom 81 only were rejected for deficient education. This is a great improvement on last year. By the previous return one third of those who appeared before the Civil Service Commissioners were rejected; this year not one fifth. See Appendix F.
"furnished to the chief of the department after six "months' probation."
From the whole tenor of the Order in Council it would appear that it was only intended to apply to persons receiving a nomination to a junior situation, and about to enter the public service for the first time. This was the view entertained by the Board of Customs, and acted upon by them in the first instance; but by a letter from the Civil Service Commissioners, dated the 10th December 1855, it appeared that the Commissioners considered that "all persons nominated to "junior situations, whether they had or had not pre"viously been engaged in the public service, required "certificates of qualification;" and in support of their view of the case the Commissioners referred to a Treasury Minute which had recently been issued on the subject, founded on a correspondence with the Board of Audit. The Board having obtained a copy of the Minute in question, it was found that their Lordships had recorded their opinion, "that, according to the intention and spirit of the Order in Council, persons nominated to any junior situation in the "civil service, whether of a permanent or temporary "character, and whether the person were appointed for "the first time to the public service, or transferred "from one junior situation to another, could not be "admitted to probation for such junior situation until " he had received a certificate of qualification from the "Commissioners."
The rule now followed at the Treasury is to intimate to the Civil Service Commissioners the names of all persons receiving Treasury nominations to junior appointinents, whether they are already in the service or not, or whether appointed to their office upon the recommendation of the Board of Customs or otherwise; and in all these cases certificates have to be procured from the Civil Service Commissioners.
Persons transferred from one junior situation to another on the recommendation of the Board are not subjected to any examination by or under the direction of the Civil Service Commissioners, and the Commissioners issue their certificate upon receiving from the Board a certificate that the nominee is in all respects eligible for his for his new office; but in cases where
officers obtain their appointments by other means they are left by the Board to prove their own qualifications, by undergoing the prescribed examination, unless they have already passed an examination before the Commissioners for an office, for which the prescribed subjects of examination are the same as those for the new office to which they are nominated, in which case a secretary's letter is sent to the Civil Service Commissioners, referring to the date of their former certificate, and stating whether the conduct of the officer has been satisfactory, and whether his health is good.
Superintendents of lockers, lockers, tidesurveyors and others promoted by the Board to the office of landing waiter under the Treasury Minute of December 1856, are not considered to come within the terms of the Order in Council, theirs being a case of promotion, and no formal Treasury appointment being required.
The decision of the Treasury and of the Civil Service Commissioners by which the Order in Council has been made to apply to officers already in the service has led to much unnecessary correspondence between this department and the Civil Service Commissioners, and to the issue of two or more certificates for the same person for situations where the qualifications are precisely the same,-for instance, in the case of a weigher appointed a tidewaiter, or a tidewaiter appointed a weigher, and in some cases where the situations are precisely similar only at different ports.
In one case a tide waiter was recommended by the Board for removal from Port Glasgow to Liverpool, to admit of a reduction of the establishment; and as a Treasury nomination was necessary, and such nomination was intimated by the Treasury to the Civil Service Commissioners, the Board were informed by the latter department that the officer must be furnished with their certificate, and the Board were under the necessity of reporting the particulars of the case to the Commissioners, and of certifying as to his qualification, in order that the Commissioners might be in a position to issue their certificate. The tidewaiter referred to, having been desirous, for family reasons, of returning to Scotland, and having been removed from Port Glasgow for the good of the service, the Board submitted to the
Treasury that he might be appointed to an office of tidewaiter at Greenock, then vacant. His transfer to Greenock having been approved by their Lordships, steps had again to be taken to obtain the certificate of the Civil Service Commissioners. These removals both occurred during last year, so that the officer was certified twice within twelve months, as being qualified for the office of a tidewaiter, though he had filled that office for nearly three years before the issue of the first certificate.
In another case a tidewaiter was ordered to be removed for misconduct from one port to similar duty at another, with a reduced salary; and inasmuch as it was necessary in this case also to obtain the authority of the Lords of the Treasury for his appointment to his new port, the Civil Service Commissioners became aware of the circumstance, and a report in accordance with the facts of the case had to be transmitted to the Commissioners in order that their certificate might be obtained.
The Treasury have in many instances allowed the Board to recommend a deserving tidewaiter or weigher for the situation of Principal Coast Officer; and although the qualification of the officer selected may have been tested practically, and be well known in the department, nevertheless, upon his receiving his appointment to the office, it becomes necessary for the Board to certify to the Civil Service Commissioners that he is qualified for his new office (for which he has been specially selected), in order that the Commissioners in their turn may recertify the same fact to the Board of Customs.
These needless anomalies we would submit might be obviated in either of two ways. Your Lordships might either empower us, on obtaining your sanction, to remove officers from one port to another on our own responsibility, where their character deserved it or the good of the service required it, without applying to the Treasury for a formal appointment,-in which case the removal would not be notified to the Civil Service Commissioners at all; or your Lordships might indorse on all such appointments as are in fact mere removals or promotions the words "A removal; no examination or departmental certificate required;" in