Archive for September 15th, 2017

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Stepanov reorganises Odessa Oblast Administration

September 15, 2017

While the “Yes 2017” conference in Kyiv attracts – or alternatively distracts – the eye, and as of the time of writing it has regurgitated old wisdom in new soundbites and little more – Odessa Governor, Maxim Stepanov, has acted to finally, and through the manner of doing so, permanently dismiss Vyacheslav Berezutsky from the Oblast Administration.

Mr Berezutsky led Oblast Department of Youth Policy and Sport and was recently arrested by the SBU for allegedly receiving a bribe of $2000.  It is further alleged that Mr Berezutsky systematically extorted money from the athletes of Odessa that had reason to interact with his department.

Mr Berezutsky was granted bail by the court upon meeting a UAH 400,000 bail requirement.

The Ukrainian Labour Code is Soviet – it has of course been renamed, but otherwise it remains predominantly Soviet and unchanged since the 1970’s.  It is almost impossible to sack somebody within the State machinery and for them to stay sacked.  It was legislation written with that purpose in mind.  Ergo a sacking that truly lost somebody their job required the political nod and a compliant court.  Even then such a sacking, unless resultant in a prison term, should be interpreted more as “garden leave” prior to being found another position within the State machinery.

Ukraine, to this day, has been in no rush to throw out this Soviet legacy Labour Code and create a new one – for obvious reasons should a reader be something of a cynic.

As a result, Mr Berezutsky’s absence from his role leading Youth Policy and Sport was short lived, despite the pending court case for allegedly abusing that very position.

Governor Stepanov is not perfect, however from a presidential point of view, he is certainly not bad.  Mr Stepanov is low profile, he is a man forged in the fires of Ukrainian bureaucracy, he has very limited political ambition, and is thus a fairly safe pair of hands.

He is not one to unnecessarily rock the boat – and equally he is not one to have his boat unnecessarily rocked – as the criminal allegations surrounding Mr Berezutsky have done.

A method to permanently remove Mr Berezutsky from the Oblast Administration that could not be undone by the Labour Code, or an “understanding” judge, was required.  The years forged in Ukrainian bureaucracy have not been wasted.

A (perhaps partial) reorganisation of the Oblast Administration occurred on 15th September.

For example, the Department of Coordination of Administrative Services and Information became part of the Department of Economic Policy and Strategic Planning.

In order to permanently rid himself of the “Berezutsky” problem, the Department of Youth Policy and Sport was assimilated within the Department of Education and Science – with Mr Berezutsky’s  department being formally dissolved in the process.

Governor Stepanov then finally sacking Mr Berezutsky under Article 40 – “termination of the employment contract on the initiative of the owner, or the body authorized by him, in case of changes in the organization of production and labour.”

Mr Berezutsky cannot return to a job that no longer exists – and nor can an “understanding” judge rule that he should be returned to a job that no longer exists.

Problem solved.

As an aside, as a result of the reorganisation, it appears an additional 77 people will be employed within the Oblast Administration.  There will now be 607 employees.  No reasons were offered for the additional staffing requirements.  It may be that previous reductions to 530 people were a little too draconian.  Civil administration is not like running a business after all.  Governance requires a little slack (but not much) to be built into the structures to deal with unforeseen events and/or emergencies. when they arise.

It remains to be seen whether this is an end to the restructuring of the Odessa Oblast Administration – or not. More importantly, it remains to be seen whether the reorganisation will increase the responsiveness of local governance, and increase its ability to effectively implement policy – or not.

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