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Risks of Public Service Reform in Russia

русская версия

Опубликовано на портале: 31-12-2010

Public service reform in Russia is inevitable, otherwise the problems will continue  to pile up for public service and this may result in further public administration deterioration. But how to tackle these problems and how to conduct public service reform? Should the world experience be applied or not? It seems that the Russian experience of the past decade gave the answer. The initial attempts to reform public service in Russia are already based on the world experience, with parts of it applicable to Russian practices being used. To stabilize the reforming process it is imperative to give due consideration to the risks of reform, based on their historical analysis, a thorough study of their roots and a search for possible ways to eliminate these risks. It seems, it is true not only for Russia but it also applies to every country conducting public service reform. Speaking of Russia, it is public administration incompetence to launch and conduct such researches, and, especially, to take the achieved results into account, that puts the current public service reform at risk. Neither “lessons of the past”, nor modern negative trends, changes in the structural and functional profiles of public service (ageing staff, gender discrimination, low payment, lack of continuity and etc.) receive adequate consideration in the course of reform. Inattention to the risks of public service reform along with the existent political, social and economic, organizational and legal risks is likely to set back a reforming process. Frequent local initiatives can serve as an example for spontaneous reforms being carried out under the existing circumstances with simultaneous federal initiatives. It means that a number of local or even municipal bodies set up working groups to launch their own programs on modernization of the state apparatus without federal center coordination and timely and systematic control by the expert community preparing reforming initiatives at the federal level. These facts signify a lot. The positive side includes the emergence of civil society and social responsibility, with grass-root pressure making the government improve itself, but on the other hand, it may result in the loss of control, the disintegrated and fragmented public service, including legislation. In addition, due to the neglected risks, systemic top-down reform initiatives face serious challenges and as a result the pace of the reform is very slow. The Concept of Civil Service Reform of the Russian Federation, ratified by the President of the Russian Federation in 2001, appears to be the legal regulation that reflects the expert community consensus on the goals and the course of the reform. But, at the same time, public service reform, as a process of complex and structural changes, confronts substantial risks. The protection of vested bureaucratic interests at any time may jeopardize the activity of the large expert groups, including highranking officials, deeply involved in the reforming process. Thus, the main idea of the reform is featured in the Program. The basic goals ofthe reform may be formulated as follows: to optimize the federal public servant headcount; to define powers and responsibilities of public servants; to create conditions for openness and accountability of state bodies’ administrations and public servants to civil society; to develop public service resources; to improve the efficiency of personnel policy and the quality of employee structure of the federal public service;to implement mechanisms for identifying and solving public service-related conflicts of interests, to introduce a legal regulation of professional ethics of public servants; to develop a public service administration system. It is almost impossible to predict the outcome of the reform in terms of ideals of a democratic society, as the Program lacks definite criteria for  atching the goals and the results. Only in the process of the Program implementation it is envisaged to establish such criteria. However, the permanent social and expert monitoring of the process is crucial to achieve it. Evidently, there is a good chance of the risk of turning public service reform into a technocratic project. In order to avoid it the following is essential: 1) to apply positive foreign experience by introducing a kind of political patronage over public service reform; 2) to ensure openness (publicity) of the reforming process which is imperative for the positive outcome of public service reform.

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