Experts: attempts to reverse public service reform interfere with public interests

Experts: attempts to reverse public service reform interfere with public interests
September 22, 2015.

Kyiv, September 22, 2015. The idea to reconsider the fundamentals of the Public Service reform in Ukraine is wrong and interferes with public interests. Delaying the reform threatens the reforming country in general, declared experts and civic activists at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center as a part of Ukraine Reforms Communications Taskforce project.

This statement has been made in response to the comment by the President Petro Poroshenko on inexpediency of the State Service reform as it is set forth in the draft law On the Public  Service (No.2490) [the draft law] he had made at the latest meeting of the National Reforms Council [NRC] on September 18, 2015. The parliament adopted the draft law in the first reading at the end of April 2015, and its preparation to the second reading is currently in progress. At the same meeting of NRC the chair of the Verkhovna Rada Volodymyr Groysman suggested to withdraw the draft law and discuss drafting a new one at the future meeting of the parliamentary factions’ coordination board.

Expert community, involved in reforms development, resented this approach, as they believe the existing draft law is a compromise accommodating interest of all the participating parties. “The draft law contains all the novelties necessary to implement the public service reform. The statement of the European Council reads the same. We are convinced that any ideas to create a new working group on drafting of new bill will yield the same result, wasting 6 to 12 months. We’ve been looking for the compromise for over a year now,” said Denys Brodskyi, expert at Reanimation Package of Reforms, former head of the National Agency of Ukraine for Public Service.

Participants of the press briefing stated they believed a race for power to be the real reason for the attempts to back the reform. Ihor Koliushko, head of the board of the Center for Political and Legal Reforms mentioned discrepancies in approach to electing heads of local state administrations described in the draft law, and decentralization reform initiated by the President. “It was agreed that the public service reform would be the first step. There were discussions on certain provisions but in general we came to terms. The President all of a sudden makes a statement today that everything should start from scratch. It might be an unfortunate misunderstanding but if not, then it means a decision has been made at the highest political level to curtail institutional democratic reforms involving decentralization and transparency of the state power. In fact, it means focusing on accumulation of power. So, we need to explain the consequences of such policy,” explained Koliushko.

Viktor Tymoshchuk, deputy chair of the board of the Center of Political and Legal Reforms laid emphasis on several aspects of the Draft law which are sticking points impeding the reform. These are competitive selection for high governmental offices, local administrations, introduction of the office of state secretaries and prohibition of political party membership for the period of doing public service. “There are acceptable solutions even for those main debating points but they have to be passed anyway. Nevertheless, we would like to hear more clear points from the President and the Prime minister. The Prime minister acts oddly, as has not even once mentioned the need for this law over the past eighteen months,” said Tymoshchuk.

Volodymyr Kupriy, representative of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, reminded that the factions made a commitment to adopt the corresponding draft law. This is stated in the coalition agreement that the parties have signed. This commitment should have been fulfilled last year. “It might have been the only reform obtaining consensus from both governmental structures and expert community, so such calls for revision seem strange. If the government and parliaments made some commitments, they should fulfill them; otherwise they lose trust of both the society and European community. Attempts to improve something may be endless,” said Kupriy.

Oleksiy Ryabchyn, a member of parliament (MP), said that MPs should bear political responsibility for adopting the draft law. If there are some discrepancies, they must be solved in the debating chamber, not in the Cabinet of Ministers or the Presidential Administration. “I am concerned about the fact that these important amendments to the draft law that we agreed on at the meeting of the relevant committee of the parliament, will be defeated at the direction of various policy-makers. We will face the necessity to pass the law in such inadequate version. Nevertheless, we will not keep silent, we will list the names of people involved in this process. So I believe it would be efficient for everyone to get round the table and agree on adopting a compromise draft bill,” emphasized the MP.

Den Pasko, member of NCR and co-founder of “Professional Government” initiative, put emphasis on another important aspect to be solved by the public service reform. He referred to the fair wage for the public servants, which the draft law omits at present. Nevertheless, it is not the reason to refuse from the reform implementation. “It is the top-priority reform, and failure to pass it renders all the other reforms impossible,” said Pasko.

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