Back to the Civil Service – Ukraine

March 2, 2016

2nd March saw the publication of a Cabinet of Ministers Decree, “Approval of rules of ethical conduct for civil servants’ – Number 65” which states the following –



of 11 February 2016 r. number 65


On approval of rules of ethical conduct for civil servants

The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine resolves:

  1. The rules of ethical conduct for public officials annexed.
  2. To determine the effect of this ruling applies to managers of state enterprises.

Prime Minister of Ukraine A. Yatsenyuk                                                                        

Ind. 19

Approved by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine of 11 February 2016 r. Number 65

Rules of Ethical Conduct for Public Servants

I . General

1 . These Rules govern the moral foundations of civil servants and are in compliance with the principles of civil service ethics.

2.  Civil servants are led by ethical principles of public service, based on the provisions of the Constitution of Ukraine, laws on civil service and prevention of corruption, namely:

1) serve the state and society;

2) decent behavior;

3) Integrity;

4) loyalty;

5) political neutrality;

6) transparency and accountability;

7) integrity.

3.  In the civil service, a person acquainted with these Rules and must observe them in their future performance.

II.  The principles of civil service ethics

4.  Serving the state and society stipulates:

1) honest service and loyalty to the state;

2) the public interest in the performance of tasks and functions of the state;

3) the promotion of the rights and legitimate interests of man and citizen;

4) create a positive image of the state.

5.  Decent behavior includes:

1) respect for the dignity of others;

2) politeness and respect for high culture communication;

3) goodwill and prevention of conflicts in relations with citizens;

4) prevention, including outside the public service, action or behavior which may harm the interests of public service or adversely affect the reputation of a civil servant.

6.  Integrity provides:

1) focus action to protect public interests, the priority of the common good over individual citizens, private or corporate interests;

2) the inadmissibility of the use of state property for personal purposes;

3) preventing a conflict between public and private interests;

4) non-disclosure and non-use of information that has become known in connection with a public official of his duties, including after the termination of public service, except when required by law;

5) avoid providing any benefits adherence and identify certain individuals and entities, political parties, public and religious organizations.

7.Loyalty provides:

1) good faith to implement the decisions of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, President of Ukraine, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine and the state body which is a public servant, regardless of their own beliefs and political views;

2) refrain from any form of public criticism of government bodies and their officials;

3) the correct attitude to managers and employees of the public body in the performance of his duties by a public official.

8.  Political neutrality provides:

1) prevent the influence of political interests on the actions and decisions of a public servant;

2) rejection of the public display of political views and sympathies;

3) the requirements concerning restrictions on political activity by law in respect of certain categories of civil servants;

4) avoid the use of symbols of political parties in the performance of his duties by a public official;

5) transparency in relations with persons performing political functions.

9.  Transparency and Accountability provides:

1) openness and accessibility of information on the activities of the civil servant, except in cases determined by the Constitution and laws of Ukraine;

2) for civil servants first and second category:

keeping records of telephone conversations and personal meetings with representatives of political parties, people’s deputies of Ukraine, entities or their authorized persons, and providing information about such conversations and meetings in accordance with the laws on access to public information;

accounting facts of vehicles, property and other tangible and intangible assets provided by individuals or legal entities for official purposes.

10.  Integrity provides:

1) fair, honest and professional performance of his duties by a public official, detection initiative and creativity;

2) constant improvement of their professional competence and improvement of performance management;

3) prevention of evasion of decision-making and responsibility for their actions and decisions.

III. Responsibility for violation of these Rules

11.  Violation of these Rules state officials bear disciplinary responsibility according to law.

Although somewhat “woolly” in places, and perhaps micro-scripted in others, the general principles are standard fare throughout Europe.  The Ukrainian Decree is not departure far flung from that of the UK Civil Service Code for example.

An a-political civil service does not publicly criticise the policy of the government of the day, nor openly and actively support opposition policy, thereby through inference de facto criticising existing policy.  To do so publicly is to compromise its necessary a-political nature.  It exists to facilitate and implement the policy of whatever government of the day is actually government of the day – whether that policy ultimately prove to be good, bad or counterproductive.

It is for the political opposition, civil society and society to publicly criticise the policy of the government of the day, and when that government be replaced and the next government policy is to overturn previous government policy, it is the same a-political civil service will be tasked with implementing that policy reversal – also without public criticism.

It may well be that the civil service as an institution, or a considerable number within, considers most policy produced from whatever government of the day be as mad as a wasp, bad, or worse counterproductive, but its role is to implement it impartially and with integrity (on time and on budget – hopefully).

That is not to say that senior civil servants with accumulated years of policy wisdom under numerous governments, ably supported by an institutional legacy collected through decades and centuries of experience, do not, and cannot influence policy.  Indeed it happens – and necessarily so – but it happens in a professional and private manner so that the government of the day may consider the issues raised – or not.

The civil service is the nervous system of the nation, it is not the brain that generates the policy the nervous system transmits.  Policy comes from elected officials, not career functionaries.


The publication of the Decree seems to have caused something of a storm (in a tea cup) among some Ukrainian commentators who rightly point out this is a method imposed by Prime Minister Yatseniuk to prevent public criticism – and certainly a narcissist such as the PM will happily reap the a-political silence that will (or should) be forthcoming from the Ukrainian Civil Service henceforth – but that does not make the Decree wrong if “Europeanisation” of the Civil Service is the goal.

The issue with this Decree is the timing and possible outcomes for outspoken appointed current civil servants like Odessa Governor Saakashvili at a time when he is at public political loggerheads with PM Yatseniuk (not that it will stifle the Odessa Governor’s public criticism, nor will continued criticism lead President Poroshenko to sack him for breaching the rules within the Decree).  Most people identify Mr Saakashvili as a politician and not a civil servant despite his current post, and thus it seems unlikely PM Yatseniuk will gain much traction in the public realm if using this instrument to try and silence the Governor.  A political mess is sure to follow almost immediately.

Clearly those that would claim it is not “European” either don’t have much clue as to what is expected of an a-political/European (Western) styled civil service (or civil servant), or have little desire for a truly compatible/comparable civil service.

All such nations have a Civil Service code of conduct/ethics protocol that prevents public criticism by the civil service (and its members) of current policy and/or policy makers.  When becoming a civil servant, you are expected to keep your personal politics to yourself and/or in a very private domain.  Professionally and publicly an a-political stance is necessary and expected by the entire political class, civil service peers, and the constituency alike.

It is for this reason that the memoirs of senior civil servants are normally a good read – having left the civil service they can enlighten all (subject to official secrets etc) regarding policy advice given at the time, subsequently ignored by ministers, and the hapless consequences coming to fruition as they predicted.

The publication of this Decree however is a timely reminder that one of the few outstanding (in comparison to the usual half-arsed) laws passed that significantly reforms the Ukrainian Civil Service comes into effect from 1st May 2016.  As stated by this blog when the law made it through the Verkhovna Rada in December 2015 and remained fit for purpose – “It now falls to civil society and the diplomatic corps to defend this law from politically sabotaging “amendments”.

Sadly, as with every well crafted and fit for purpose law in Ukraine (and there aren’t many emitted by the Verkhovna Rada), there are seemingly going to be attempts to sabotage this law via amendments as predicted by the quote above.

These amendments will seek to allow the re-politicisation of what will become an (almost entirely) a-political body with effect from 1st May.  Amendments will be tabled that will allow the vested/political interests to insert “their man” into the civil service system in positions of influence.  Necessary amendments to numerous other laws will be delayed so as to frustrate and impede the proper functioning of this good (if falling short of very good) civil service law.  There will be amendments tabled to delay the 1st May implementation date.  In short, civil society and the diplomatic corps will indeed have to defend this law from amendment sabotage in the coming weeks and months.

Yet perhaps the issue that should concentrate both civil society and diplomatic minds today is the fact that Anna Onishchenko (who is close to the Prime Minister) has yet to deliver a long promised (and expected) root and branch civil service reform strategy – let alone one that will come close to delivering the national “Europeanised” nervous system the December 2015 law and the March 2016 decree seek to do – and few “in the know” are expecting anything competent to emerge when/if such a strategy is forthcoming.

A smooth road does not appear to be ahead for civil service reform.


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