Civil Service Act: They would like to but they are afraid to

| 25/09/2014

Evzen_TosenovskyDespite – or even perhaps because – of what is prescribed by the EU to the Czech Republic in an array of areas, from public transport to agriculture, such requirements are very mild for the Civil Service Act… Essentially the legislative adaptation of the Civil Service Act is not coming from EU regulation but it is fully in the hands of the national legislature. It is applied to all questions regarding the creation, changes, end of services, the rights and obligations of civil servants, their service discipline and disciplinary responsibilities, evaluation and education. The EU only wants to make sure that the officials are regulated by law, not dictate what the legislation has to say. 

Therefore the laws adjusting the future existence of the Czech Civil Service Act has almost become part of every candidate’s campaign for the fall elections to the Chamber of deputies. Candidates – led by the Association Reconstruction of State – were raising hands to adopt this law as soon as possible in the context of anti-corruption measures. The elections took place in October, if you remember? We are now in June and the Chamber casts doubts on the most recent version from the pen of the minister without office, Dienstbier. No wonder. Being in favour of the Civil Service Act, it is the same as being against corruption and disagreeing with the weather. Such attitudes are easy to express – it’s much harder when you have to actually do something.

I am personally convinced that no Civil Service Act will increase the efficiency of the state administration simply by having politically neutral civil servants. There is no such person – everyone has been brought up in a specific environment and gained a different education and life experiences… Ultimately I’m getting at two main positions. Each official servant, backed by the new law, will be on the right or left side, maybe in the middle, but definitely not neutral.

However ministers enter offices to fulfil their electoral program. If they find strong political opposition, how do they then implement their own agenda? For any type of request, they will be told that “it has always been done differently here” or “it is not possible due to the following ten reasons”. All of you who have seen at least one episode of the TV series “Yes, Minister” and “Yes, Prime Minister” see exactly what I’m getting at. And bearing in mind that those who didn’t work for Agrofert have not enough qualifications… 

The Minister needs to be able to replace a certain number of civil servants in view to ensure that analysis, strategies, concepts, drafted legislation bills or non-legislative measures are carried out quickly with possible recommendations and solutions, rather than presenting why it is not possible.

It is a tradition to get emotional that ministers brashly remove experienced civil servants and replace them with their own inexperienced friends. It brings forward the view that the administration is firstly subject to corruption and secondly to more instability. The first I do not understand at all and the second is only true in part because the most experienced officials soon find a place somewhere else. Politicians are simply afraid to say that such changes are logical, and that according to various rules and with greater or lesser intensity occur all over the world.

For instance in the USA shortly after every presidential election, a special guide is issued listing all the political and supportive functions in the federal administration, which are subject to “non-competitive” nomination of a new President or heads of subordinate offices and agencies. Recently there have been eight thousand! Certainly no one wants to compare the U.S. Government with the Czech Republic, but it is a confirmation of the mentioned principle that without the people who “play with us” there is no government.

Definitely there is no idea that information on the coalition has leaked to the media that perhaps the Minister could bring two deputies to the office who wouldn’t manage anything, and maybe even the director of the cabinet with the spokesperson. In such situation there would be no place for Ministers because the ministries would be run independently by civil servants. What is it about then? On each ministry officials have some control, be it administration or similar tasks. They handle various submissions from the citizens, businesses, municipalities and counties or associations and they should be dealing with them impartially, predictably and accordingly to the applicable law. 

Now – and only – for them it makes sense to ensure their independence from the will of political leaders, led by the Minister, who would due to their political interests try to convince the officials to decide otherwise. In other cases it’s nonsense. The coalition government knows but is afraid to say it due to the various self-proclaimed initiatives which might to start to raise hands that the first thing the new government suspended was the imprudent pre-election promises.

 

By Evžen Tošenovský

 

 

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Category: CONTRIBUTORS, Evžen Tošenovský