We often talk about the lack of a strategic vision at the state level, which is why the decision and legislative acts that are adopted in the country are chaotic and contradictory. The fact that many pressing issues are scattered among several ministries, and no one understands who is specifically responsible for this or that, and each state body is actually a separate legal entity, a state in a state that operates according to its own rules. The fact that we live in political cycles – from elections to elections, when everything is done exclusively for the power, as such, and thoughts, ideas and projects remain only on paper, and state officials, instead of serving the needs of citizens and promote the development of entrepreneurship and regions, simply transfer those papers from place to place and with the help of various permits, licenses, etc. form barriers, caring primarily about how to get some benefit from their posts.
The experts have stated for a long time about the collapse of the public administration system and the need to bring it in order. For the first time, they started talking about the reform of the state administration and the institute of state secretaries back in 1998, during the time of President Leonid Kuchma. The post of Secretary of the State was introduced, which at that time remained the same political appointment as the post of the minister, which immediately created a conflict between them.
Subsequently, there were many initiatives to develop laws on civil service. But each time when it was a question of dividing political and administrative posts, about the competitive procedure for selecting civil servants, etc., politicians took a step back. A fairly progressive Law “On Civil Service” Ukraine received only in 2016. And in the summer of 2017 at the meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers a number of decisions were made that gave the command to Volodymyr Groysman‘s team to announce the start of the structural dismantling of 10 pilot ministries called to be reborn with new functions, tasks and highly paid employees of the new directorates, who have to reform these ministries, having passed for their positions on a competitive basis.
April 18 this year the regulations of the Cabinet have changed for the first time. Although not in full, there appeared the concept of “forecasting the impact of draft decisions” and a description of what exactly the Government means by “shaping and implementing state policy”. This, of course, provides a chance to rationalize the development of the Government decisions. But it is not yet clear what will be the mechanism, and who will develop it – there is no experience. The Government also introduced 35 e-services for the public and business. Among them – registration services, social services and construction industry. An open data portal, data.gov.ua, has been implemented, which will unveil more than 25 thousand data sets.
The training for the media “What does the reform of the state administration give and how it will change the life of Ukrainians?” was devoted to explaining the main principles and results of the first stage of the reform of the civil service, which took place in Kyiv on April 18-19.
“We got a rather complicated situation, from which we had to proceed, first of all, through certain reforms, – Kostyantyn Vashchenko, the Chairman of the National Agency of Ukraine for Civil Service, told the reporters. – You can talk about social, medical, educational reforms. All this is very important. But at the heart of all of them is the reform of the state administration. Only this reform gives an answer to the question of who and how should implement all this, and must change the system of decision-making, the organization of government bodies, the work of the Cabinet and an official. All this together refers to what we call the reform of public administration. The key institution in the state administration system is the state service and civil servants, to which the society has long been quite deservedly ambiguous, mostly negative attitude.
Our task was to break this. This is quite difficult, given that such a system has been formed for more than 20 years.
We did not invent our own bicycle, but carefully looked at the experience of the leading countries of Europe and the world. Each of them has its own system of civil service, but there is a concept of standards, the principles of which are that the civil service should be politically neutral, stable, professional, impartial and needs-oriented. In order to implement these principles, we have developed and adopted the Law on the Civil Service. And it was a separate, complex story.
The law has been working for almost two years. We have managed to attract the best European experts and Ukrainian scientists to work on it. But, as always, to pass the law – it’s not even half the battle. It must be realized. Therefore, many by-laws were adopted, according to which the principles and key norms contained in the law: exclusively competitive access to the civil service; leveling appointments on the basis of some kind of personal or political sympathy (civil servants today cannot be members of political parties and must demonstrate exclusively professionalism and competencies to win the competition), a new system for evaluating civil servants (not based on the processes they implement, but on the basis of results – the KPI system, which is familiar to many in business and civil service of other countries), a new system approaches to the upgrading of qualifications of civil servants; revision of the functions of the ministries themselves and other authorities.
Now we are in the process of reforming the ministries, from issues of property management and some current decisions, we need to move on to strategic planning and policy analysis, the formation of visions, that is, the image of the future that in perspective should be implemented in those areas, in which these ministries ensure the formation of policies.
The number of civil servants should be optimized, but reducing their numbers is not our goal. This should happen in an evolutionary way – in the process of depriving the bodies of state power of superfluous functions, duplication of authority, transfer of many issues to the local level through decentralization, is already happening today. For today, there are 242 thousand civil servants comparing to 295 thousand in 2015.
But in parallel, we must create a system for their motivation. First of all, it is the wage, the corresponding system of which the law predicted. Without more or less adequate wages, it is impossible to attract adequate people to the service. But, by raising salaries and stabilizing the civil service (by virtue of the law, we protected it from so-called political layoffs – there should not be situations, when with the arrival of a new leader the whole apparatus changes, as it was before, as a result, professionalism is lost; one can be dismissed from work only in case of a disciplinary violation, or if a person is seen in corruption or other actions), we simultaneously increase the responsibility. Therefore, a new evaluation system has been introduced and anti-corruption legislation has been adopted.
Any reform of this scale is quite difficult. And we, of course, have not yet achieved that ideal, the image of the future that was laid, while forming the legislative principles. However, we have completed the first stage – the law has been passed, the entire sub-legal base has been formed, modern personnel management services – the directorate – have started to be formed. For two years, almost 150 thousand people took part in the competitions for public service. And these competitions (which were almost non-existent before the law was enacted, or they were declarative) gave the first result. If earlier on the post claimed 1.3 people, now, in the same areas – 5-7. And for a post in the directorate – more than 100 people. This means, in particular, that citizens believe in the law, in the opportunity to take an honest position in state power bodies. Although, in the beginning, it caused skeptical smiles, and it’s not a secret that the practice of making calls with requests and recommendations prevailed. I will not say that today we completely liquidated it, but we have significantly reduced it”.
The ideal is really far away. After all, the question is not only and not so much in the legislation as in the culture of governance in the state, which cannot be changed only by a set of new people in the directorate. Especially, when, as a result of the competition, a person comes to the position, whose surname arouses a lot of questions a priori. This happens today quite often. And even if the winner is really a new person and specialist, then, getting into the steep brine of the unreformed ministry, it will be difficult for him to stay and not turn into a pickled cucumber. Frozen (unlike all other civil servants) structure of the high salaries of specialists of new directorates, which are called upon to formulate the policy of ministries, is not conducive to this: 30% – the official salary and 70% – various allowances and bonuses. This ratio has always been an instrument for influencing the decision of an official. Moreover, now this gives grounds for talking about the fact that when the € 121 million of the EU’s irrevocable assistance to support the reform of the state administration in Ukraine (provided for by the financial agreement with the EU until 2021 in tranches of 20 million) expires, the reform may end with them.
Reformers say that this will not happen. Allowances outside the general pay model for civil servants are reserved for reform specialists because it is a pilot, an experiment. The goal was to motivate specialists and experts to the civil service at the first stage. In the future, this ratio will be changed by gradually increasing the salaries of all state employees.
Парадокс, але влада, яку всі заслужено критикують, нині справді намагається закласти основи ефективного управління державою, передусім розділивши політику і держслужбу. Під тиском заходу, половинчасто й місцями викривлено, але на рівні реформ держслужби і децентралізації приймаються важливі закони та кроки, які мають полегшити завдання наступній владі та командам. Якщо раптом прийдуть адекватні.
This is a paradox, but the authority, which everyone deservedly criticizes, is now really trying to lay the foundations for effective state governance, first of all, dividing politics and civil service. Under the pressure of the west, it is half and sometimes distorted, but at the level of civil service and decentralization reforms, important laws and steps are being adopted that should facilitate the task of the next government and the teams. If adequate suddenly come.
“The attitude of the population towards the reform of public administration is mostly negative, because people believe that as a result of it, we will see the same people, but with a higher salary, – Martin Klauke said, the Head of the “Good Governance and Democratization” assistance program department during the training. Unfortunately, at the top political level, everything remains unchanged. And here a big question is the quality of politicians and elites, who come to power and the ministries. The current conserved political system does not need new high-quality officials. Not reformed political elite does not allow to complete the reform, at any cost trying to push their people, giving them high salary-bonuses, and thereby leveling the essence of the reform.
To change this is the task of political reform: the law on elections, on the parties, the creation of social elevators. That quality comes to politics, and then to power.
However, the mechanism of public administration is being laid correctly. For the future.
Text: Hanna Drozd