The head of the Public Service Commission said Tuesday that more needs to be done to keep the public service non-partisan.

Maria Barrados, who monitors the staffing of the bureaucracy, says government appointments need to be based on merit, rather than on political affiliation.

Barrados presented her latest report to Parliament earlier Tuesday, ahead of her retirement in May.

'We want [appointments] to be merit-based. We want them to be non-partisan, and we want an independent safeguard.'—Maria Barrados, President of the Public Service Commission of Canada

She noted there was a fine balance between the public service being non-partisan, and still responding to the direction of elected officials.

"There are always tensions between the non-partisanship of a public service and the need for a public service to respond effectively and loyally to the direction of elected officials," she said in her report.

While her office is meant to investigate complaints of public servants who are alleged to be showing their political stripes, she has no authority to look into complaints about government appointments to positions on federal tribunals, boards and agencies. That's where there's a need for oversight, Barrados said.

Urges appointments based on merit

"We want [appointments] to be merit-based. We want them to be non-partisan, and we want an independent safeguard," she said.

"We really don't have that independent safeguard, and the way to answer the questions that often get posed about individual appointments is through such an organization and such a mechanism. And that's what we're recommending."

Either the responsibility of ensuring external appointments should be given to an organization such as the Public Appointments Commission, or come under the mandate of the Public Service Commission of Canada.

Among Barrados's other recommendations was the proposal to draw up a Code of Conduct for Ministerial Staff so that political staffers clearly understand their roles and responsibilities.