Public Administration Reform
Anna Bilous, Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford
Ukrainian civil service has been characterised as one of the most unstable in the region (Verheijen & Rabrenovic 2015: 16) . While the body of the civil service was formed during the Soviet period, the public administration was constantly going through changes both before and after independence. The most recent reform agenda was formulated in 2014/15. Previously, the government declared the start of a large-scale public administration reform in 1993, 2000 and 2011.
Prior to the recent reform strategy, the reforms were mainly focused on the institutional reorganisation. The Law on Civil Service (1993) introduced the concept of civil service and defined some of its functions. However, the core responsibilities, recruitment process, reward system, and accountability were not clarified. The 1993 understanding of civil service is limited: the civil service is supposed to enable the government to “fulfil the functions of the state”. In practice, this was reminiscent of the Soviet practice whereby civil service did coordinate everything the government was supposed to be in charge of, including all the firm activity. In the period post 1991, such a definition did not give enough clarify on the issue apart from saying that civil service has to do everything that the state does. This was also suggesting that that the civil service is in itself an embodiment of the state. The 2000 Strategy introduced a number of changes, most notably in the process of policy formulation, performance and appraisal systems. Finally, the 2011 changes to the Law on Civil Service have never entered into force. The issues raised in the 2011 draft law contributed to pursuing the reform agenda (for instance, on performance assessment of civil servants).
Figure 1. Ukraine’s Governance Indicators
Source: World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators
In the eyes of the general public civil service was a Pandora’s box, and a potential threat to democracy. This tendency, though popular across developed countries, was reinforced by the fact that the civil service, its composition and incentive system and practices of interactions with politicians, were formed during the Soviet period. Supporting this negative outlook was the government effectiveness data produced by the World Bank: the Bank could not record any major change in the performance of Ukraine’s government so far (Figure 1).
… and recently
The current wave of public administration reforms starts with the adoption of the new edition of the Law on Civil Service in 2015. In the following years, the government prioritised public administration reform. As part of this effort, the government developed the Strategy of Public Administration Reform for 2016-2020. The Strategy was broadly based on the SIGMA framework for public administration reform developed by the EU and OECD for the European Neighbourhood Partnership and EU Accession Candidate countries. This was warmly welcomed by the international partners. The European Commission estimated its total funding for a programme to support the execution of the strategy at EUR 104 million . To reflect on the initial years of the Strategy implementation, the government has conducted an assessment of the public administration in 2018. Based on the results, the Strategy was amended and extended till 2021.
External players such as the European Union, World Bank Group, and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development have all played a significant role in supporting positive change in Ukrainian public administration. Perhaps most importantly, the European Union supported the reform aimed at improving policy-making capacity within the Ministries. The reform introduced new policy-making and strategic planning divisions (called Directorates) within the government. The Directorates were sponsored from the budget, with considerable support from the EU. In 2017, the estimated assistance amounted to EUR 10 million . This effort was conceptualised as a way to renew Ukrainian civil service by attracting talent to well-paid government positions. 10 Ministries, 2 agencies and the Secretariat of the Cabinet of Ministers took part in the pilot project that started in 2016. Since 2016, 58 Directorates were formed as a part of the pilot with more than 500 reform experts joining the government.
Moreover, the EU and the World Bank are assisting the Government in developing human resource management, analysing public accounting, tax administration and other core areas for an efficient government operation. The programme is fully financed by the European Union. The EU provided a EUR 3.03 million grant for the development of the integrated HR system. Another EUR 2 million were provided by the EU for the World Bank’s advisory services in support of the reforms aimed at improving efficiency in HR services. The Cabinet of Ministers adopted a high-level Concept for Human Resources Management Information System (HRMIS) implementation in public administrative institutions.
There were multiple instances where civil service reform has succeeded so far. We have identified the following developments to illustrate the positive change:
1. Transparent and competition-driven recruitment practices
The Government has made considerable progress on multiple stages of the reform. The recruitment procedures were modified, necessary changes in the regulations were adopted and amended (in particular, the procedure for conducting competition for civil service positions). The Government has launched the human resources recruitment portal to advertise positions and recruit new civil servants. 28,100 civil servants were recruited through the competitive process in 2018 alone (Cabinet of Ministers, 2019: 32) , while total number of civil servants in Ukraine is about 200 thousand.
The Government is now working to create the Human Resource Management Information System (HRMIS). The World Bank has already conducted a background study, and the contractor developing the HR portal has been selected on an open tender. The National Civil Service Agency will be responsible for the implementation of the HRMIS. Initial stage of the project includes a limited number of central executive bodies, and active phase will ensure a country-wide coverage.
2. Competitive recruitment for Senior Civil Servants
Introduction of transparent recruitment of senior civil servants (grade A) was a truly revolutionary change. The Government passed new regulations on Commission for Senior Civil Service. The Commission started working already in 2016.
During 2016-2018, the Commission for Senior Civil Service held 229 competitions for Category A positions in civil service, including state secretaries of ministries, heads of oblast and district state administrations, heads and deputy heads of central executive bodies . Based on the competition results, 150 officials were appointed, and 94 positions remain vacant (table 1).
Table 1. Recruitment Dynamics for Category A Positions, 2016-2018
Source: Report On Implementation Of Ukraine’s 2016-2020 Strategy For Public Administration Reform In 2018, p.33
3. Reinforcing policy-making capacity within Ministries
Introduction of Directorates within the ministerial hierarchy has achieved its projected results: young people and those from “outside of the system” went into the heart of the government to strive for success of the reforms. While details of the long-term reform are still in need of further consideration, the reforms have to be congratulated on many intermediary achievements. Among them - introducing competitive pay, eliminating corruption in the recruitment process, improving training for civil servants, setting a clear system of performance indicators and reforming the image of civil servant in Ukrainian society (Bilous & Tyshchuk 2019 ).
4. Striving to improve countries’ representation in international governance-related rankings
International rankings are used to evaluate the reform. While international rankings can be questioned in terms of methodology and gaming effects they create, they are definitely unbiased and incorruptible by individual governments. The choice of indicators provides a useful overview of the public administration system and stimulates the government to pay attention to the way it is accessed by international organisations and generate more and better quality information about its operations.
An overview of the progress against different rankings and indices is demonstrated in the Public Administration Report (Directorate of Public Administration at the Secretariat of the Cabinet of Ministers 2018:14) - figure 2.
Figure 2. Performance against the selected international rankings and indices of governance
Source: Directorate of Public Administration at the Secretariat of the Cabinet of Ministers 2018, p. 14
Ukraine made a major breakthrough in the sphere of digitalization. The digitalization agenda has affected service delivery and internal workings of the state apparatus. In 2014, the Government successfully passed the legislation on the administrative services, allowing to simplify administrative service delivery for the end users. At the end of March 2019, 121 types of administrative services were available to citizens and businesses online. Further improvements in other services including implementation of the one-stop-shop approach were also observed. With the “transparent offices” entering into force in 2014 , 778 Centres of Administrative Service Delivery were operating in Ukraine by 2019. Moreover, the government has improved its record in terms of publicly available information online, both at the level of central and local authorities (Open Data Barometer, 2019).
Secondly, the government has improved its internal processes and organisation. Open and competitive procurement process and the launch (and gradual improvement) of Prozorro system is just one example. Prozorro system made many corruption schemes related to government procurement impossible. The human resources recruitment portal career.gov.ua was a step forward in improving the transparency of the state apparatus and attracting higher calibre of professionals to civil service. Continuous development of the HRMIS, e-health, portal for educators, and TREMBITA portal for interaction of government institutions have all signified a move towards a rapid modernisation of Ukraine’s public administration.
What are the key risks ahead?
- Lack of political support
- Changing the strategy of reform
- Reversal of the reform progress
- Ineffective communication of the reform
Civil service reform is not implemented for the sake of civil service. In fact, all the changes are supposed to contribute to:
- Generating better value for money
- Improving access to public services and their quality
- Making the way the government is running more efficient
- Increasing the chances that policy interventions are effective
Each of those end goals of civil service reform should be considered seriously. In a nutshell, these are the main challenges governments are typically facing on their way to a more efficient civil service.
Generating value for money implies that the civil service is aimed at cost cutting. To this end, the civil service has to be capable of producing up-to-date management data series. Most governments find this challenging, so a lot of extra efforts have to be put in to ensure that the current posts are assigned the responsibility and hold accountable for executing the necessary steps.
Access and quality of services: the Government should focus on making reforms count for the public. In other words, access and quality of services should be prioritised in order to improve quality of governance. Moreover, this can also help generate public buy-in (broaden the support base for the public administration reform).
Making governments more efficient: The positive change is hard to sustain. Once the government has changed, there is a likelihood that reforms will be reversed or altered. The inconsistency in reforming such a complex mechanism as civil service often reduces chances for the reform effort to succeed. This is because the rewards and bargains system (RBS) within the civil service is hard to control for – and more prolonged period is needed to understand the ways in which reform has changed this system. This means that every reform changes the underlying reasons for why people join and stay in the civil service, what skills and experience are valued etc. This generates a balance of rewards and bargains. Building on the need for some change in the RBS, policymakers can make further interventions. However, if there is a gap in understanding the changing RBS, effective policy interventions are unlikely.
Making more effective policy interventions: Policy analysis, including projected outputs and outcomes of interventions, and impact assessments have to be further improved. More trainings are needed to ensure that the civil servants are prepared to take on the policy analysis to satisfy the evidence-based policy requirements.
What is the plan?
1. Advance the strategy of reform
Strategy is very important. While SIGMA lays out some directions, it is not designed to address the issues of the actual balance of power and responsibilities across government institutions. This is something to be considered on a national level.
One thing is to make sure reforms cover all the ministries – or at least have a pre-approved plan of doing so. Another outstanding issue here is to make sure that civil service reform is ongoing not only within the ministries, but within other structures, such as parliamentary committees and president’s administration.
2. Consult with civil servants and other stakeholders to ensure that the reform is supported
The drivers of the reform should be seated within the Parliament, in the Cabinet of Ministers and/or within the highest political leadership of the country. Moreover, the strategy and tactics of the reform should make sense to those outside the civil service – and outside the government.
3. Focus on value for money
This priority has to be incorporated into the civil service agenda. This can be done, for example, by delegation of responsibilities for scrutinising government programmes and ensuring that adequate progress was made with respect to public spending on a particular programme or project. Those responsibilities can be assigned to senior civil servants within the government or concentrated in the so-called “delivery units”.
4. Generate a broader support for reform
This step is crucial. The government needs to show that there is political and technical support for the reform. It has to emphasise that the reform goes in line with the international commitments that Ukraine has signalled, in particular to the EU. On top of those measures, more effort should be put into:
- Demonstrating tangible change
- Linking reform outputs to outcomes
- Being transparent about funding the Strategy of Public Administration Reform
- Openly discussing the cost-cutting measures adopted as a part of the reform
Some reform elements might generate more visibility than others. For example, e-governance and one-stop-shop system for e-services are much more visible to citizens compared to other, more intricate institutional reforms. There should be a reasonable trade-off between visible reforms that improve access and quality of public service – and the concealed but costly institutional reforms aimed at creating a stronger and more capable government in the long-term.
 Verheijen, T.J. and Rabrenovic, A., 2015. Civil service development in Central and Eastern Europe and the CIS: a perfect storm?. In Comparative Civil Service Systems in the 21st Century (pp. 15-37). Palgrave Macmillan, London.
 Financial and Economic Analysis Office in the VRU, 2018. Financing the Reform of Public Administration in 2017: Plans and Facts
 Secretariat of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, Response No 6511/0/2-17 from 21/07/2017 to the Request of MP A.Shkrum No 417/213-17 from 3/07/2017.
 Cabinet of Ministers, 2018. Reform Implementation of Ukraine’s 2016-2020 Strategy of Public Administration Reform in 2018
 Reform Delivery Office, Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, 2018. Public Administration Reform Report for 2016-2017, p. 40
 Bilous, A., Tyshchuk, T., 2019. Civil Service Reform in Ukraine: Patterns of Success in Reforming Institutions. Vox Ukraine, forthcoming
 The reform was introduced in some of the city council beforehand, however it had a limited spread (Dobryanska, N., 2014. Centres of Administrative Service Delivery – a Way to Fight Bureaucratisation and Corruption. Dzerkalo Tyzhnia, 29/04/2014).