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Our View: Reforming the reformers is like preaching to the converted

No takers yet for the Commissioner for Public Reform position

HOW FUNNY that the government’s much-vaunted plans for a reform of the public service have been put on hold for three months because there is nobody to deal with it. The newly-created post of Commissioner for Public Reform has been vacant since its last incumbent resigned three months ago. Even funnier, though, is the fact that the government is finding it difficult appointing someone to the post.

According to press reports this week, the government’s search for a new commissioner has been fruitless, with several retired, top-ranking civil servants that had been approached showing no interest. This is just as well. A retired civil servant, who had benefited from the dysfunctional and inefficient system that helped him or her rise to the top, would be the most unsuitable person to reform it. He or she may know everything about the service but would be too closely connected with the union Pasydy, which would be fighting the changes and safeguarding its members’ privileges, to make real changes.

The fact the government approached retired civil servants for the job could be an indication of how seriously it takes the planned reform. Its first appointment to the post was a young civil servant whom the union opposed for legal reasons and was vindicated by the courts. She was forced to step down and replaced by an advisor to the finance minister (not a civil servant) who quit a couple of months because she had a better job offer.

Now we are back to square one, even though public service reform cannot be shelved, as the government would have liked, because it is an obligation under the memorandum with the troika. The government is reportedly considering leaving reform to the ministerial committee which has the executive power to deal with it. However, the problem in such a case would be that all the support work would be assigned to civil servants whose sympathies could well be with their colleagues and their union.

This is why the support staff should be outsiders. There are plenty of qualified and capable people in the job market who could be hired on a 12-month contract to do the preparatory work for the committee. No more than four people would be needed, one of whom would be the team leader, reporting to the committee. There is no need for a commissioner, which in essence is an unnecessary post, thought up by governments to increase the number of cushy jobs they can offer their supporters.

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