Can a new law depoliticize Ukraine’s civil service?


Civil servants in Ukraine are too politically engaged and a new law “On the civil service” is vital to rectify the situation. This was one of the conclusions of a meeting in Kyiv of the heads of the central bodies on civil service issues from Ukraine, Canada, Ireland and the Netherlands.

Ukraine’s system lacks continuity in the implementation of decisions and resolution of problems. Each election brings changes not only in the top echelons of the bureaucratic system, but at middle and low levels of State administration. Politicians having got to power try to get their people in everywhere.

A new law is no panacea

The Head of the Central Department of the Civil Service Timofei Motrenko is convinced that only a new law “On the civil service” can improve the situation. He says that this draft law is aimed at separating political and administrative positions within the civil service. He says that the main features need to be a competitive system for appointing State secretaries, and for them to carry out only administrative functions and avoid conflict of interests by not interfering in political appointments.

This draft law has been in preparation since in 2004 however the Verkhovna Rada has yet to pass it.

In most democratic countries the neutrality of the civil service is viewed as one of the main principles ensuring the stable functioning of State institutions.

Maria Barrados, Head of the Canadian Civil Service Commission notes that no appointments in the civil service are made from a political point of view. She points out that even deputy ministers are traditionally from the highest echelons of the civil service. It is vital that they work well regardless of who is currently in power.

Brian Andrews affirms that the same principle is at play in Ireland where changes in government do not lead to changes among officials, and you do not find out about a civil servant’s political preferences.

According to Mr Motrenko’s figures, the ratio of civil servants in relation to the population is 0.6%, only a little lower than in Poland and Russia (0.8%), but considerably lower than in France - 4,2%, in Denmark  6,8%, in Sweden - 9,2%, and in the USA - 10,2%. He mentioned, however, that in Ukraine at the beginning of this year, the number increased by 195 thousand.

The efficiency of decision-taking by civil servants is, however, measured in the amount of time which people spend on getting issues resolved and the measures they need to resort to for communicating with officialdom. For most European countries, this communication already takes place on the Internet.

From information at

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