The Professional Government Association of Ukraine (PGA), a civil society platform, formed in March 2014, by the graduates of the world’s leading universities and programs in order to help build good governance in Ukraine, expresses a deep concern relating to the events taking place recently as part of the Public Administration Reform.
During the last three months, we have observed many worrying signs pointing to resistance to the successful Public Administration Reform implementation. PGA is deeply worried by the lack of appointments, which should have been the result of the official civil service candidate’s selection processes, which took place since November 2019.
These signs point to overall lack of transparency in the selection process, failure to comply with the rules, blatant disregard for the deadlines and the absence of appointments to numerous senior civil service positions. This sets the unfortunate precedent and, in our view, requires immediate attention of the government and public sector stakeholders who are involved in the Public Administration Reform.
Public Administration Reform is one of the key reforms in Ukraine. It aims to build a more efficient and accountable public administration system, which works in the public interest, ensures the country’s sustainable development and provides quality services to the citizens. An integral part of this reform, which is modeled on European Principles of Public Administration (SIGMA/OECD), is the transparent selection procedures for the nonpolitical, public service positions. Ensuring fair contests by using a transparent and an impartial selection process, which enable the hiring of the best available talent is an indispensable component in the modernization of the civil service.
PGA supports the National Agency of Ukraine on Civil Service (NACS) new team’s efforts as well as the steps taken towards ensuring a transparent selection process. Furthermore, we welcome a serious commitment to Public Administration Reform Strategy implementation process, which is essential for creating a capable, accountable and a trustworthy civil service.
However, due to continuing lack of investigations into irregularities observed during recent civil service vacancy contests, we must highlight a significant risk of losing public confidence in the Civil Service Higher Commission objectivity and independence. These cases relate to the partiality and unfairness encountered by the candidates during the selection process for the positions of the State Secretary at the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Agriculture as well as the Head of the Ukrainian State Film Agencyand the Head of the State Service on Ethnic Policy and Freedom of Conscience.
Furthermore, the widespread delays in the selection process is also an area for major concern. Among 56 contests for senior civil service positions announced in November 2019, only 9 ended in successful selection of a candidate, 11 contests were canceled, 1 ended without determining a winner, and 35 are delayed significantly exceeding the 45 days term from the vacancy announcement to the candidate selection stipulated by law.
PGA stresses that a continuing erosion of trust by the Ukrainian citizens and the international partners in the government’s actions on Public Administration Reform creates a dangerous situation. Inability to ensure fair and transparent contests for top civil service positions, within the deadlines set by legal framework, risks a making a mockery of the Public Administration Reform and undermines the European Union membership aspirations of Ukraine.
We recommend the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine and the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to urgently undertake the following steps thus guaranteeing transparency in the work of the Senior Civil Service Commission and other relevant government entities:
– Update the composition of the Senior Civil Service Commission while allowing the civil society and international organizations to participate in the nomination and selection process of new commission membersamong persons not materially dependent on any government entities;
– Ensure a full transparency of the Commissions work at all stages of the selection process and publish a written record clearly indicating the evaluations provided by each Commission member at the end of each stage of the selection process,
– Make sure the finalists of each contest are officially appointed by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine in the shortest possible time (less than 15 days). In cases where appointment did not take place, provide a complete list of reasons for appointment refusal;
– Ensure full compliance with the procedures during all selection process stages and in all institutions part of public administration.
This list is not exhaustive and contains only priority recommendations. PGA stresses the critical need to conduct public hearings on the required amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On Civil Service” and the relating legal acts. At the same time, we believe that implementing the aforementioned priority recommendations will greatly improve the current situation, significantly reduce the risks of “unfair selection” and provide access for highly qualified and motivated professionals to the positions in the civil service.