Undoubtedly, the Civil Service Commission (CSC) is a unique and, simultaneously, insufficiently explored phenomenon that has virtually no noticeable counterparts in modern history. Unfortunately, no reputable researcher will claim that this extraordinarily interesting and informative topic can boast of a great number of publications and/or research materials that can be unambiguously interpreted. Therefore, writing a profile essay about CSC requires a specific ability to work with original literary sources, such as various official documents, proclamations, decrees, byelaws and even private letters (obviously, we are talking about that part of historical heritage that has been officially published and edited in accordance with the administrative rules and public norms). Furthermore, one has to understand that some principles of functioning of this department that may seem peculiar or even ineffective for a modern researcher have been established in specific conditions in which choices were extremely limited and specific consequences of every concrete decision could be unclear for direct participants (by mischance or by luck). Thus, in order to clarify this situation, let us start with the main questions: ‘what is CSC ?’ and ‘what was the purpose of creation of this department?’
Thus, what is CSC ? The Civil Service Commission is a specific department that was created in 1885 in order to moderate some specific inappropriate and severe repercussions of the public service. Undoubtedly, the formation of the Civil Service Commission was the most important element in the evolution of a unified civil service. This institution was focused on a collaboration in a truly democratic context, involving accountability to the officially elected government within a parliamentary framework and, doubtlessly, with allegiance to the monarch as head of state. In fact, even the term ‘unified civil service’ alludes to recruitment in accordance with specific official procedures and certain particularized principles (usually by a central department responsible for recruitment). Therefore, the answer to the question ‘what is CSC ?’ leads us to the understanding of the essence of the modern unified civil service in all its indisputable complexity. Although from the early days of the Commission recruitment was often to individual positions in particular departments; these posts were grouped into groups for convenience of recruitment and the groups were given analogous circumspections of pay structures. These dispositions were, in general, the responsibility of the Treasury, because they were matters of recruitment policy, but the CSC always worked tightly with the Treasury and therefore in practice facilitated for noticeable improvements in the sphere of policy. The CSC’s role in recruitment policy creation was restricted, but it made significant contributions to a unified civil service.
Of course, the significance of the Civil Service Commission, and the necessity for a separated institution dedicated to recruitment by open contest was often questioned. In truth, for the very first months of its functioning the question ‘what is CSC ?’ was left practically unanswered by a great number of officials. Naturally, we cannot claim that the idea of this new institution was met with observable resistance, but many levels of employees were not convinced with its practical effectiveness. For the sake of argument, we must admit that it is a well-known situation for all new departments. In the beginning, even the simple question about the main aims of a new institution, such as ‘what is CSC ?’, faces the inertia of the public opinion. Nevertheless, the advantages of maintaining a specific institution responsible for recruitment were commonly acknowledged.
Nowadays, the common opinion is that maintaining upon the authority it derived from Orders in Council, the Civil Service Commission quickly established itself because it was extraordinarily effective, flexible and, doubtlessly, pioneering in the sphere of civil service. It had a credit for specific standards of propriety through its acceptance of publicly known official procedures. Moreover, it made a major cultural and economic investment to the further evolution of an administrative culture. In fact, the Civil Service Commission was dedicated to the practice of personal integrity in the public interest. The significant role played by the Civil Service Commission in maintaining a unified civil service just cannot be questioned. Of course, there exist a considerable number of various dissertation abstracts that dispute the statement that the civil service is unified because the higher civil service appears to be unified and broad principles of public service are still far from accomplishing. Nevertheless, it is a view difficult to sustain the introduction of performance-related pay and the continuous emphasis on business-like methods, which are assumed to be virtually superior in the private sector. The history of the Civil Service Commission demonstrates us the significance of a common admissions experience. In fact, the significant cultural impact, which was caused by the Civil Service Commission, cannot be considered fully accomplished. Moreover, even in the twenty-first century, there can be discovered signs that indicate a renewed interest in the topic. Therefore, a standard sample case study, which is dedicated to the analysis of the experience that was obtained during the functioning of the Civil Service Commission just cannot be considered as irrelevant or ineffectual. The Civil Service Commission left its score in civil service recruitment by being one of the first government institutions anywhere in modern times to have a great impact on civil service personnel management. The CSC accomplished this by developing new tests, methods and programs of assessment for an exceedingly large amount of positions in public service.
In fact, the creation of the Civil Service Commission laid the primal principles of the modern civil service. Moreover, its establishment in 1855 and its functioning during its formative years were the results of four essential influences. Obviously, these influences were not created independently from each other. However, it is still possible to isolate them in order to emphasize their importance for the modern civil service. Therefore, let us create a brief list of these, doubtlessly, significant achievements that have caused such a great administrative impact. Here is a concise register of these impacts:
The Civil Service Commission existed from 1855 to 1991. In fact, when the CSC was created it was on an experimental datum-line. Moreover, it has no general support from all parties in Parliament. In other words, the lion’s share of officials was occupied by the questions ‘what is CSC ?’ and ‘how to deal with this new force?’ In addition, it should be noted that the CSC was created by an Order in Council, not an Act and that before 1855, there existed no common plan of inspections for recruiting, and all programs, and institutions that existed applied only to diverse fragmented departments. The history of the Civil Service Commission is, in some senses, a history of increasingly specific but, simultaneously, increasingly narrow interpretations and practice of accountability. Originally, the CSC was designed in order to eliminate the defects of recruitment to the civil service by patronage, but it should be remembered that the goals of patrons were not necessarily ineffective and/or intended to harm. In truth, for some respected political leaders, patronage was just a laborious duty aimed at specific targets. However, in general, patrons in the early and mid-nineteenth century were looking only after their individual interests. The essential difference between the open contest and patronage was that patrons did not have the interests of the state or the public interest uppermost when making their nominations. Patronage was the established method for making appointments to positions in government in the early nineteenth century. Under this system, civil servants could sometimes benefit by obtaining from ministers appointments for their sons. It was sometimes argued that this helped produce a new corpus of credible civil servants, animated by useful official traditions. In theory, patronage could be honestly exercised, but its repercussions could also lead to administrative errors that were contrary to the public interest. A significant reason for this was that patronage did not have the necessary ardor for public service as one of its motivating peculiarities. To whatever positions were vacant, hardworking and sufficiently able individuals, who would be expected to be a consideration to their patrons, could in theory be appointed. Unfortunately, in practice, this was often not the case and patronage could supply only ‘obvious opportunities for corruption, peculation, undercover influence and power-seeking of various kinds’.
Additionally, another aspect of civil service recruitment that requires much more detailed study in the twenty-first century is delegation. After all, a scrupulous examination of this phenomenon allows us to review common opinions about the Commission. Thus, what is a delegation and what is CSC from the modern point of view? Of course, it could be contended that widespread delegation of recruitment to a great number of recruitment units has enlivened the administration of clerks who may have the abilities necessary for a particular job, but not obligatorily the administration of officials whose qualities inspired confidence for a successful long-term career. In fact, in the second half of the twentieth century, individuals were thinking less of spending their working lives with one employer; consequently, some of the qualities that were necessary in the selection were different. Furthermore, the whole nature of the civil service was different. This statement leads us to the new results. Thus, again, what is CSC ? The answer is quite simple. Despite various incidents of ineffectiveness and harm caused by CSC, we have to admit that the administrative impact of this institution has no parallels in modern history.