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Bias and conflict issues found in council recruitment

A council has been lashed by an integrity watchdog for showing bias in recruitment and lacking documentation, making it impossible to assess whether people employed were the best applicants.

Tasmania's Integrity Commission on Tuesday released the findings from its investigation of eight appointments at the unnamed council.

Several of the jobs were awarded via direct appointment, meaning the roles were not advertised internally or externally.

"There was also no policy governing recruitment processes at the council and therefore no requirement to disclose any conflicts of interest," Integrity Commission CEO Michael Easton said.

"We found there was a failure to recognise that a professional association - where two people have worked together before - was a potential conflict of interest."

The report found the council did not generate selection reports or any other documentation recording why an appointed applicant was preferred.

"It was therefore impossible to assess whether the appointee was genuinely the best applicant for the job," the report said.

The commission found there was bias towards or against some applicants by members of the recruitment panel.

Two applicants known to the panel were given a second opportunity to address selection criteria after they failed to do so.

"There was no identification, no declaration and no management of conflicts of interest, and no acknowledgement by respondents that professional associations should be declared and managed," the report said.

The commission has made several recommendations, including that the state minister for local government develop a model recruitment policy.

It has also called for the Local Government Act be amended to reintroduce a provision obligating councils to appoint employees based on merit.

"This was removed in 2005 and while we are unsure of the government's intention at the time, the commission is of the view this is an important legislative measure to protect the public interest," Mr Easton said.

The commission noted all states and territories except Queensland require employment based on the principles of merit in their local government legislation.

Minister for Local Government Nic Street said work had already begun to address issues raised in the report.

"I will act promptly on the commission's recommendation to ensure the merit principle is applied consistently in recruitment practices by councils across the state," he said in a statement.