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A legislative moment worth genuinely lauding and basking within – Civil Service Ukraine

December 13, 2015

For as many as the years this blog has been running, the Ukrainian civil service has frequently appeared as a source of disillusionment and frustration.  The reasons for this have been many, but primarily relate to two distinct causes – the first legislatively, and the second functionally (as has oft been stated here, effective civil servants have public service within their DNA and are a specific breed).

Indeed, an entry from 5th July once again laid out some very basic requirements entirely absent from the Ukrainian civil service – “It is, when all is said and done, the nervous system of the nation. It is what makes things happen – or not.

Through civil service departments, agencies and public sector bodies, the civil service acts as the delivery service of current policy. Presidents, Prime Ministers, Cabinet Ministers and governments will come and go – but the civil service, a-political and independent of government, remains a consistent functionary.

The civil service is responsible for delivering governmental projects, be they large or small, complex or simple (hopefully) on time and on budget.

Despite the numerous ministries in which the civil service perform, perhaps the simplest way to segregate them is those tasked with issues at home, and those tasked with issues abroad.

The civil servants closer to Ministers are there to give advice and have, theoretically (and often do) influence on policy. Whether that advice is based upon a broad or narrow view, or somewhat questionable evidence occasionally, is something that perhaps should be pondered a little more than it is.

However, together with political independence whilst delivering government policy of the day, one, if not the major benefit of a civil service is its a-political longevity and thus internal stability – and it is here that Ukraine has major issues to resolve.

As such, existing Ukrainian reform by way of reducing civil service staffing numbers and ejecting the most corrupt is at best, still only partial reform. Political interference and excessive unwarranted meddling continues unabated.”

So it has come to pass, as mentioned a few days ago, that the new civil service law finally came up for the Verkhovna Rada vote – “The long awaited and repeatedly delayed (because it is rather good) Bill upon civil service reform and very importantly, its independence from the political class, was subjected to attempts to politicise it – this despite the Bill having been subject to thorough civil society, professional and requested European help in its drafting. Indeed the Europeans stated they would fund the civil service reform based upon such legislation being adopted.

Quite frankly, should the Bill be successfully tinkered with and unnecessarily politcised, which would be to the distinct ire of the Europeans, they should flatly and simply refuse to fund civil service reform under a belatedly politically sabotaged law.”

Fortunately, and thanks to a good deal of pressure from civil society and the diplomatic corps, no last minute political sabotage was allowed to occur and a good Bill went to the Verkhovna Rada and ultimately become law.

Civ Soc Law

In fact, all things considered, the adopted civil service law – for as long as it survives any belated political sabotage by way of “amendments” – is probably the most important law passed throughout 2015 in Ukraine.

The law goes a very long way to properly addressing all of the problematic issues raised in the aforementioned quote of the 5th July entry.  That in turn has a direct effect upon the effective implementation of each and every policy and legislative decision that the civil service under a new and independent structure will be tasked to deliver – and it is for this reason that this legislative success is probably the most important law adopted in 2015.  It it to be both lauded and basked in (for as long as it remains unadulterated).

It now falls to civil society and the diplomatic corps to defend this law from politically sabotaging “amendments”, but it also now falls of the Europeans that stated they would fund the civil service reform to do so effectively not only financially, but with no small amount of leadership and determination when it comes to making the law work as it is intended.

As synonymous as Canadian Ambassador Waschuk and US Ambassador Pyatt are with rule of law reform in Ukraine – neither missing a single opportunity to both raise and pressure the issue (and why not when their nations are spearheading those reforms) – the EU Ambassador and each and every Ambassador of each and every EU nation must take ownership of the equally important civil service reform agenda, with all consistently praising (and by inference defending) the law in its current form, and also pushing it to the same level of domestic political and public consciousness as that which the US and Canadian diplomatic tag-team unfailing have done.

Should all be reasonably successful, it is also a matter of finding those with public service in their DNA to head and manage a reformed and independent Ukrainian civil service capable of effectively delivering policy of the day.

Undoubtedly there will be many a fine candidate from within civil society that has advised upon, shepherded and defended this law until its adoption, and will continue to defend it in its current form.  There are also existing solid and reliable public servants – some of whom have very recently found themselves twiddling their thumbs.  For example, is there a better candidate (should he be interested) than the long serving (until a few days ago) former Ukrainian Ambassador to the UN, Yuri Sergeyev?  A formidable, a-political, solid, reliable, and public serving (rather than political poodle) head of the Ukrainian Civil Service he would undoubtedly be.

Whatever the case, the hard legislative work has been done (less defending what has been achieved).  The harder implementation work now begins – where determined and unrelenting internal and external leadership will be undoubtedly required.

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