Page images



[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Board of Civil Serrice E.raminers,

Washington, January 31, 1873. GENTLEMEN: We have the honor to submit a report on the operation of the "Rules and Regulations for the Improvement of the Civil Service" in the Treasury Department, since our appointment by the President on the 15th day of April, 1872, as “a Board of Examiners to conduct all investigations and examinations for admission into the Treasury Department, or for promotion therein." We beg to be pardoned for making the style of the remarks and suggestions herewith submitted somewhat less formal than the customary style of official reports, and for dwelling at some length on points with which the Advisory Board is already familiar. A desire is felt by many thoughtful and intelligent persons to learn exactly what Civil Service Reform in the Departments amounts to, and it is our aim to present to these a truthful picture of the workings of the system, incolored by personal bias either for or against the measure. It is hoped that the explanations given may help to dispel the misconception, which appears to be wide-spread, of the actual scope and character of the examinations. If, by making known the details of our plan of procedure, we call forth criticism and suggestions, we shall give them a fair consideration, and if it thereupon appears that the present system of examination is capable of improvement, we shall be glad to amend it in such points as come within our control. Another object in describing so fully the methods of examination is to make this report a sort of manual for the local boards, in the event of the extension of the rules to other branches of the service, so that they may have the benefits of our experience. We have, therefore, explained much more fully than would otherwise have been necessary, and somewhat, we fear, at the expense of conciseness and of interest, all the details of the working of the system.

It is but just to ourselves to say that we have tried to bring to the discharge of our duties upon the Board minds unbiased by prior opinions, and to administer the rules promulgated by the President with judicial fairness.


The first duty which the Board was called upon to perform was that of preparing, in conjunction with the Boards of Examiners for the other Executive Departments, and under the direction of the Advisory Board, plan for the practical application to the several Departments, of the rules and regulations promulgated by the President. Those rules and regulations being necessarily of a general nature, the several Department Boards were requested by the Advisory Board to prepare regulations of a more specific nature, setting forth in detail the manner of making application for admission to the Departments, and the method of conducting examinations both for admission and for promotion.

The preliminary preparation of these specific regulations was intrusted to a sub-committee consisting of one member from each of the Department Boards, with instructions to report to a full meeting of the members of all the Boards. By this plan each Department was enabled to secure a presentation of its views and suggestions, in compact and digested form, through its representative on the committee.

It was the prevailing opinion that, in order to secure the success of the system of competitive examinations, as little as possible should be left to the arbitrary discretion of the examiners. It was feared that unless the plan of operations were defined with the utmost exactness, the regulations might, in the course of time, receive but a nominal enforcement. This fear was justified by the laxity with which the provisions of the act of March 3, 1853, in regard to the examination of clerks, were enforced. Although that act declares that "no clerk shall be appointed in either of the four classes until after he has been examined and found qualitied by a board to consist of three examiners, one of them to be the chief of the bureau or office into which he is to be appointed, and the two others to be selected by the head of the Department to which the said clerk will be assigned," yet the absence of any prescribed method of examination, or definite standard of acquirement, permitted the evasion or habitual disregard of its requirements in some Departments, while but a spasmodic enforcement of them was secured in others. The requisite certificate of examination was made, it is true, but the examination in too many cases was either merely formal or waived entirely. To guard against a similar failure of the new rules and regulations, the utmost care was taken to prescribe with accuracy, so far as could be done in advance of any experience, the mode of conducting examinations and of making up the results. Most of the difficult points which were likely to arise, having thus been settled in ad

[ocr errors]

vance, the way was paved for a prompt and uniform enforcement of the rules.

The result of the joint labors of the Department Boards was the "regulations governing admission to the Departments and examinations for promotion " which were approved by the Advisory Board May 14, 1872.

[merged small][ocr errors]


The same care which was observed in the preparation of the rules was bestowed by this Board upon the books, blanks, and forms, to be used by the Appointment Burean, and in its own office, in carrying the system into operation. For the satisfaction of candidates, and to avoid personal importunity from them, blank notifications were prepareil

, by which each candidate should be advised, by either the Appointment Bureau or the Board, of the action in his case, from the acceptance or rejection of his application to the decision upon his examination. It has been the constant aim of the Board to have its records in such a condition that they would show the exact action in each case,

and the status of each candidate at any time. In the appendix will be found copies of all of the blanks, used in the Treasury Department in connection with the Civil Service rules.


[ocr errors]

The Board determined, in the beginning, that the rules should be enforced with the utmost rigidity and impartiality. It was hoped that by this means unfair criticism would be disarmed, and the efficacy of the rules tested in the most thorough manner. Accordingly, it was required, in the first place, that all applications should be made in perfect accordance with the requirements of the rules, and all which varied therefrom in the slightest particular were rejected with out besitation. It was soon seen, however, that it would be injudicious to absolutely reject every imperfect application, as competent applicants might thereby be excluded. It has, therefore, been made a practice in the case of imperfect applications, to inform the applicants, by means of printed notifications and marked copies of the rules, of the particulars wherein their applications were defective, and to give each of them two opportunities to complete his application. But when upon the second attempt at amendment the candidate has failed, with a marked copy of the rules, pointing out the defects in his application, before him, to comply with the requirements, the failure has been considered as evidence of lack of capacity for the performance of clerical

« PreviousContinue »