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Public administrative reform (begins?) – Ukraine

June 8, 2016

It is claimed that a fish rots from the head down.

Therefore there will be those that agree with Minister of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine Oleksandr Saenko, and Deputy Minister of the Cabinet of Mikhail Titarchuk, that public administrative  reform should begin at the top – within the Cabinet of Ministers.

Minster Saenko on 8th June stating – “The government’s reform of the secretariat will start the reform of public administration in general.  

As part of the work on public administration strategy – where we are collaborating with the European Union – the Government Secretariat will serve as a point at which we introduce new principles of public policy in Ukraine.”

So be it.

Let us be entirely blunt – the Ukrainian constituency will measure public administrative reform at the delivery end.

Efficiency, bureaucratic simplicity, civil service honesty, morality, and institutional ethic,, humility, and public service.  If it gets those, after basking in bureaucratic Utopia for a short period, eventually the issue of value for money will arise from a constituency used to being robbed blind by an entirely inefficient and systemically corrupt system.

What then are the benchmarks?  How are they measured?  By whom?  Over what time frame?  When will policy be reviewed?

To win over the Ukrainian constituency, effective policy implementation matters – as does a dramatic reduction in Soviet legacy bureaucratic nonsense.  Public administration will be judged by delivery, delivery, delivery first and foremost.  Later value for money (which there has never been) will rise up the public agenda.

For now however, delivery, delivery, delivery, is the watchword for public administrative reform with regard the voter.

For Deputy Minister of the Cabinet of Mikhail Titarchuk, “the quality and efficiency of government decisions – it is the number one issue.”  Almost any policy wonk would agree.  Qualitative and efficient decision making is key to good policy – but good policy can be undone by inefficient implementation.  Indeed inefficient implementation can become counterproductive giving rise to the perception of good policy actually being bad.

Ukraine always fails with (consistent) policy implementation.

Mr Titarchuk went on to state that an audit of financial and economic activities of the secretariat will commence immediately, with the result that it will be possible to reduce costs and increase the efficiency of financial and economic activities of the secretariat.

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Well bravo.  Very sensible and structured – but as the national constituency has absolutely no idea just what the real costs are, what they have been, and what or where any savings made will go.  Thus the national constituency are not going to be impressed by cost cutting measures to known (and a lot of corrupt unknown) fiscal statistics – even if accountants, auditors, bureaucrats and policy wonks are, for reasons of both process and transparency.

There is much to public administration and policy delivery but like so many societal issues, the national constituency does not concern itself with MBA PA theory or powerpoint modelling of Utopian public administration structure.  Quite simply, it will not be satisfied with the continuing, shockingly poor, unnecessarily overly bureaucratic, and deliberately unhelpful, often corrupt public administration, just because it may soon be announced it costs less (against previously unknown/suspect figures).

It will be difficult to convince the Ukrainian public that delivering the same shitty public administration through the same retarded and overly bureaucratic State institutions for (possibly) less money, actually constitutes reform.  None will be satisfied with a (possibly) simple cost reduction exercise.

Effective policy delivery via helpful, public serving and knowledgeable public administration, thereby making life as simple and swift as possible when dealing with the State will be the benchmark by which most Ukrainians going into daily battle with the current system will (at least initially) judge reform.

Public administration, and the civil service in particular, are generally perceived (not always accurately) to have little to do with rotting policy heads at the top, but are perceived as the nervous system that the public expects to deliver policy with deft bureaucratic ability for the public benefit.

A reader may ponder just how long it will take for audits in the Government Secretariat to translate into effective, seamless, consistent (indeed metaphorically painless) delivery for the Ukrainian that has cause to deal with any State institution – for that is the benchmark of public administrative reform that will be the benchmark of the majority.

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