A year ago, the government announced a new stage of public administration reform ‒ reform of 10 pilot ministries. Last week, SIGMA, an organization founded by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) and the EU to assess the quality of public services, services and management in the countries of the world, presented its report on Ukraine. The evaluation of experts is important since the financial assistance and investments of the EU depend on it largely. The overall result of the expert assessment of the key horizontal reform in Ukraine is disappointing ‒ 3 with a minus of 5 possible points.

The report of 126 pages, covers data for 2017 and major events until mid-May 2018 on five of the six areas developed by SIGMA ‒ the strategic framework for reforming governance; formation and coordination of the state policies; civil service and human resources management; accountability; provision of services.

The overall result of the expert assessment of the key horizontal reform in Ukraine is disappointing ‒ 3 with a minus of 5 possible points.

“An important step in reforming the state management in Ukraine was the adoption in 2016 of the Strategy for Reforming the State Management”, the report says. “His document is consistent with the main areas of public administration principles and sets ambitious goals to be achieved by 2020. However, in reality, the low implementation rates of measures, planned in the Strategy, indicate that these goals may be too ambitious. The Strategy is not based on a thorough, structured assessment of the state of affairs”.

The quality of the strategic foundations of the reform was given 3 points. The efficiency of implementation ‒ 2. Accountability and coordination ‒ 3.

“In general, Ukraine has made significant progress in reforming certain areas of public administration. In the sphere of civil service, new legislation has been introduced, which defines the general framework of the civil service and a number of approaches, aimed at further professionalizing of the civil service. Positive results can also be observed in administrative proceedings.

The reform began with regard to the salaries of the civil servants, but the situation is far from being consistent with the principles of public administration”. The norm of the law on civil service about a premium of no more than 30% of salary was stopped. Equity and competitiveness of the system of awards (bonuses) were rated 1, as well as honesty and openness of wage procedures with the promotion of the best.

“There have been important legislative changes in the selection and appointment of civil servants, but further steps are needed to improve both the legislative and practical aspects of this process”. The result of non-transparent, dishonest competitions is a small number of candidates for positions (1.7 people). At the same time, on average, 12% of the selected people (21% in the Ministry of Economics) are dismissed during the year, along with them, the funds spent for the competitions go to the sand.

An important consequence of the reform should be the separation of politics from management, which never happened in Ukraine after gaining independence. But in the EU member states, there is a clear line between the two sides. There is a group of top managers of public administration, who are real experts in their fields and who can both manage the changes and give recommendations to the current government on public policy.

In Ukraine, however, political expediency remains at all levels. Contrary to the Law on Civil Service, in 2017, the leaders of local administrations (Regional State Administration/District State Administration) and their deputies were removed from the civil service. Meanwhile, the political appointment of heads of local state administrations and their deputies, on the principle of loyalty or as a certain compromise, is not about decentralization.

“Thanks to significant donor assistance, numerous initiatives have been implemented to modernize administrative services, but most of them have not yet given the desired results (one of the exceptions is the creation of the network of centers for the provision of administrative services (CPAS). Most of all, the further development of administrative services is hampered by the lack of a basic law, namely, the law on the general administrative procedure providing unified guarantees of the realization of the rights of citizens in their interaction with state bodies”. According to the adequacy of the provision and the volume of public services, administrative services were rated 5. Citizens-oriented services ‒ 2. The administrative procedure was rated 0.

“In the area of accountability, important steps have been taken to reorganize ministries and transfer some of their functions to other central executive bodies. However, SIGMA experts pay attention to the possible risks of this process, if it is not sufficiently planned and coordinated”. The quality of government monitoring and reporting was rated 3. Transparency, openness and legality of the decision-making process ‒ 3.

“The assessment also notes other significant problematic issues in the management and coordination of a number of reform initiatives ‒ duplication of the powers of state bodies to coordinate state policy planning and monitoring of government activities in the field of reforming the provision of administrative services. In some industries, responsibility is dispersed, unclear or not rationally defined. These concerns access public information”.

The quality of state policy planning was rated 1. The quality of state policy planning in European integration ‒ 2 (and this is the failure of the idea of creating a special “reformatory force” in ministries with decent pay for European funds).

“And here I have to, with the grace of an elephant, to stomp again on thrown into the dump 100 million euros for the creation of directorates, which not only have no positive influence, but on the contrary, became the personification of the worst practices of “recruiting” and an instrument for destabilizing the working remnants of ministries”, the deputy chairman of the Donetsk Regional State Administration Yevhen Vilinskiy said.

A year ago, the government announced a new stage of public administration reform ‒ reformatting 10 pilot ministries. However, functional examination was not conducted. In old ministries, with old functions, problems and corrupt holes, they simply are inserting new, English-speaking people for the salary from European funds. And now these people do not know what to do. Certain practical steps require not only personal responsibility, but also corporate culture. So, it seems, the emphasis on the competitions was premature.

The ability of the government to pursue the policy, necessary for convergence with EU legislation, was rated 1. Predictability and availability of government acts ‒ 3. Predictability and understanding of government policies for business ‒ 0. So, it is not surprising that business is left in the shadows and the budget is underpaid.

The concept of optimizing the Central Executive Authorities of Ukraine was adopted on December 27, 2017, but even the plan of measures for its implementation has not yet been approved. The resolution on the detailed structure of ministries has not been approved. Meanwhile, according to the schedule, the reformers already had to take up eight ministries that remained.

“The common drawback in all spheres is that the amount of financial resources, needed to implement bills, strategies and reform initiatives, is rarely calculated properly”. The financial sustainability of the reform was rated 0.

“Since most bills are submitted to the Parliament by people’s deputies and not by the government, unlike government projects, such documents do not pass through normal quality control mechanisms. In addition, the transfer of a significant amount of commitments, contained in government plans for subsequent periods, indicates that these plans are usually too ambitious”.

“For the first time, we have passed a full evaluation. There were some doubts about Ukraine’s readiness to conduct it through ambitious demands. But we’ve managed”, Tetyana Kovtun, the Deputy Secretary of the Cabinet of Ministers, says. “The assessments for all indicators are average”.

The weakness of Ukraine ‒ the implementation of the laws; the quality of legislation and a large number of legislative initiatives in the Parliament; quality and soundness of financial calculations; insufficient transparency of salaries of civil servants; fragmentation of the management, individual legal entities at all levels, bureaucratization and micromanagement in management; weak accountability of the institutions of society; chaos of administrative services.

A critical problem is a low confidence in the state as a whole (80% of citizens do not trust government institutions, except for the Ombudswoman and the Accounting Chamber, 40% do not trust them – the author’s note), which undermines the success of reforms. Citizens, in general, are unprotected in their relations with the state. My impression of the report ‒ if we can take only one important step, we must focus on adopting a qualitative law on the general administrative procedure. This is critical for restoring confidence in the government.

The reform is not well thought through in terms of steps, their consistency, ambitiousness. The strategy for reforming the state management needs to be updated”.

There are doubts, whether Ukraine has coped or not. Although, the assessment, at the request of the government, was carried out like for the candidate countries to the EU, and this is somewhat more stringent criteria than for the neighbouring countries, but the experts evaluated Ukraine on reports and documents. In real practice, we have much more problems.

One of the vivid examples of a weak, ineffective state administration is the story with the baby boxes, which in the second half of September are gradually beginning to appear in the country’s maternity hospitals (and should be on September 1). But the schemes, accompanying the process of their appearance, as before, remain extremely opaque and cause many questions. Violations are at all stages. There is no evaluation of the impact; the social effect and the financial component are not calculated, the budget possibilities are not taken into account, the temporary possibilities are not estimated. That is why the red tape with the subventions and “international technical assistance” began. Packages will be given for part of our taxes, provided in support of people with disabilities and the poor. Adding to their inflated prices another 4.5% commission to the strange intermediary of UNOPS (UN). And without carrying out a transparent procurement procedure for these packages through the ProZorro (clear) system, as required by the law, but given it for international technical assistance, which, in fact, does not exist.

At the same time, responsibility, as always, is sprayed. Although the state is essentially a single legal entity, the Secretariat of the Cabinet, which forced the governors to sign agreements with UNOPS (United Nations Office for Project Services), is now emphasizing that this is the initiative of the Ministry of Social Policy. So, what kind of assessment should such an “effective” management get? So far, decisions will only be taken at an angle of political expediency ‒ we will have problems.

Nevertheless, SIGMA’s public assessment of the key horizontal reform in Ukraine, the opportunity to discuss the process, criticize it on the basis of real material is a serious step both in further advancing the reform itself and in changing the approach to instruments and principles for assessing the course of the reform. This is a glance from the side for errors and miscalculations, the ability to correct them.

“Public administration can be compared to a piano. If you want to play a beautiful melody on this instrument, you must first set it up nicely”, the ex-Minister of State Administration of Slovenia Gregor Virant says. For two years he worked in Ukraine within the framework of the EU International Advisory Group on Public Administration Reform, and this year he continues expert support for the reform of the project #EU4PAR.

“Assisting countries in transforming their administrative governance systems on the principles of good governance towards their integration into the EU is the main task of SIGMA”, Oleksandr Sayenko, the Minister of the Cabinet of Ministers, says. “For Ukraine, which only builds its own administrative capacity, creates new institutes, launches new processes, it is difficult to overestimate this experience. Unfortunately, the recommendations, prepared by SIGMA back in 2006, did not find political support at that time. We have lost more than 12 years of our movement to the European community”.

Aren’t we going to lose even more, given the coming elections?

Text by Hanna Drozd

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