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.