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11th Ukraine Breakfast Debate: “Civil Service Reform in Ukraine: How to Change the Rules of the Game?”

A holistic reform of the civil service culture is one of the most important and pressing tasks that Ukraine is facing at the moment. A renewed and independent civil service serves as a crucial basis for a successful and sustainable overall reform process in Ukraine. By estab­lishing new struc­tures of civil services, recruitment for civil servants and trans­parency measures, the goal of the reform is the moderni­sation of gover­nance aligning with OECD and EU principles of public admin­is­tration. For this reason, our eleventh Ukraine Breakfast Debate was devoted to the topic “Civil Service Reform in Ukraine: How to Change the Rules of the Game?”. The discussion took place on Wednesday, 16 January 2019 to discuss together with our experts Dr. Violeta Moskalu, Civil Service Feedback Loop Executive Team Leader at the Profes­sional Government Associ­ation of Ukraine (PGA) and Artem Shaipov, Head of the PGA Board, who presented the first results of the ”Civil Service Feedback Loop Initiative” (CSFLI). The PGA has been launched in 2014 as an alumni network, bringing together over 3,000 Western-educated Ukrainians to assist the integration of qualified young profes­sionals into public admin­is­tration. Their feedback loop initiative — realised jointly with the Center on Democracy, Devel­opment and the Rule of Law (CDDRL), the Kyiv School of Economics and the Secre­tariat of the Cabinet of Ministers — aims at assessing the progress in the civil service reform process and identi­fying new impulses for the future of Ukraine’s civil service.

To better under­stand the results of the feedback initiative, an overview over the political context of the reform was provided by Tetyana Kovtun, Deputy State Secretary of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine and Olesia Ogryzko, Project Manager on Public Admin­is­tration Reform at the Reform Delivery Office at the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, who joined our debate via Skype. According to both repre­sen­ta­tives, the Euromaidan and the subse­quent progressive social movements created a powerful momentum for such a high-scale public admin­is­tration reform. The most important reform measures include merit-based recruiting and selection with a strong focus on external candi­dates, salary reform including greater pay trans­parency, as well as struc­tures to reinforce policy-making and policy-analysis. The 2018 joint OECD-EU SIGMA report (Support for Improvement in Gover­nance and Management) on the state of play of the Ukrainian public admin­is­tration sector generally assessed the recent efforts and devel­op­ments within the reform as positive. However, the provision of an adequately compet­itive civil service salary and the estab­lishment of a compre­hensive data collection project on the headcount of civil servants are still considered as vast challenges and will remain prior­ities within the reform agenda.

Following this overview, Dr. Violeta Moskalu outlined the first results of the ”Civil Service Feedback Loop Initiative”. According to the expert, some general challenges lie in the commu­ni­cation of the reform strategy and its goals to the public and to officials, especially to long-time bureau­crats, as well as in the adequate involvement of foreign advisors in the process on the local level. Although newly recruited civil servants are eviden­tially more autonomous and initiative-oriented than “old” ones, more than 23% of the former group indicated that they do not receive suffi­cient level of support from their direct managers. Some of the key recom­men­da­tions made by the research team hence include the devel­opment of an extensive evalu­ation mechanism at each ministry and government body as well as the improvement of commu­ni­cation of the civil service reform to civil servants and the general public and a stronger focus on civil service culture as a reform objective. Dr. Moskalu also summarised the long-term plans of the initiative to further evaluate and contex­tu­alise the public admin­is­tration reform including a compar­ative study on civil service culture in Ukraine and other countries as well as the insti­tu­tion­al­ization of an annual civil service survey in Ukraine in order to track changes in civil service culture over time.

The Ukraine Breakfast Debates take place within the framework of the project “Platform for Analytics and Inter­cul­tural Commu­ni­cation” (PAIC) and are designed as Ukraine expert talks on topical and relevant issues, which are discussed with our guests over crois­sants and coffee. The project “Platform for Analytics and Inter­cul­tural Commu­ni­cation” (PAIC) aims at supporting the Ukrainian think tank landscape as well as fostering the exchange between German and Ukrainian research insti­tu­tions. The project is imple­mented by the Institute for European Politics (IEP, Berlin) in cooper­ation the Ilko Kucheriv Democ­ratic Initia­tives Foundation (DIF, Kyiv) and the think tank devel­opment and research initiative „think twice UA“ (Kyiv) and with the kind support of the Federal Foreign Office.