Vetting refers to “processes for assessing an individual’s integrity as a means of determining his or her suitability for public employment.” Vetting may be applied to people who already hold public service positions, typically in post-conflict, post-authoritarian, or otherwise transitional contexts with the objective of removing individuals responsible for war crimes, human rights abuses, corruption, or other malpractice. Lustration is a related term applied in Eastern Europe, referring to removing public officials with links to the former Communist-era security services. Both vetting and lustration involve examination of individuals’ personal histories, while the more indiscriminate approach of purging refers to removing people from office on more general grounds of membership of a group without considering personal culpability. Vetting also refers to screening job applicants before they take up a post, most often where access to confidential information is required or national security is involved, but also in situations where post-holders would be working with children or vulnerable groups or might otherwise pose specific risks.
Vetting processes always have multiple levels linked to the degree of risk or sensitivity involved in a position. Basic vetting usually involves checking official records (such as criminal or intelligence service records). Positions with greater responsibility and risk often require credit and financial checks, interviews with the person being vetted, interviews with people familiar with the person, and background checks on people living in the same household.
Criminal records are not normally an absolute bar to employment in the public sector, except in certain sensitive positions. Applicants with criminal records are generally considered eligible for positions if their offenses are unrelated to the post in question, if they occurred a long time ago, or if they otherwise appear to present a low risk of re-offending in the context of the job.