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Problems that complicate the reforming of ministries in Ukraine

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Experts of the Centre for Policy and Legal Reform and the Reanimation Package of Reforms have also analyzed the state of the Strategy’s implementation in 2016-2017. The main problems experienced in the course of the ministries reform are as follows.

The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine has prepared an interim report on the implementation of the 2016-2020 Strategy for Public Administration Reform during 2016-2017. The Strategy was approved by the Government’s decision following the demands by Ukrainian and international experts when it became apparent that attempts at rapid economic and social reforms following the Revolution of Dignity have failed in 2014-2015 due to the inability by the majority of ministers to make policy and implement reforms in an effective manner.

In line with the recommendations by European experts, the Strategy had envisioned introducing policy analysis and strategic planning into the work of the Government and the ministries, reforming the ministries’ secretariats, and filling the organizational entities with new, reform-minded staff. The Government’s Procedural Regulations were set to be amended.

The Government’s report has noted that, in comparison with 2016, there have been significant improvements in the Strategy’s implementation in terms of conducting activities and achieving performance indicators in 2017. According to the monitoring results, in 2017, 10 of the reform’s objectives (37%) have been or are on target for being implemented, 16 objectives are subject to minor delays, and one objective (4%) has not been implemented.

Experts of the Centre for Policy and Legal Reform and the Reanimation Package of Reforms have also analyzed the state of the Strategy’s implementation in 2016-2017. In comparison with the Government’s evaluation, their evaluation is more critical, as is the SIGMA Program’s assessment of compliance with public administration principles in Ukraine outlined in the draft report as of March-April 2018.

The most important objectives at the current reform stage have to do with reforming the secretariats of 10 pilot ministries. Based on the results of discussing the state of ministries’ reform during the meeting of the Coordination Council of Public Administration Reform, 6 out of 10 ministries are recognized as sufficiently successful (including the Ministries of Energy and Coal Industry, Culture, Education and Science, Health, Social Policy, and Regional Development). At the same time, specific concerns and recommendations were expressed with respect to the remaining 4 ministries (including the Ministries of Agrarian Policy, Justice, Infrastructure, and Finance).

The main problems experienced in the course of the ministries reform are as follows.

First, the ministries’ political leadership do not comprehend the concept and the scope of public policy making they are charged with. Frequently, the ministries’ work is reduced to day-to-day administration and carrying out commissioned requests – whereas there is no realization on the part of ministries’ staff of the problems with lack of policy analysis.

Second, the ministries are trying to excessively split up the public policy areas they are charged with – and, in doing so, to create a large number of directorates by renaming old structural units into directorates and barely changing their objectives and functions. Because the newly created directorates envision significantly higher salaries, including at the expense of EU assistance, such an approach ensures salary increase within a ministry’s secretariat.

Third, the role of the state secretary is being minimized in many of the ministries. The minister and his/her deputies do not offer the secretary the ability to manage the ministry’s entire secretariat and lead the reform. In addition, the large number of deputy ministers who were appointed in 2016 due to the weakness of the ministries’ secretariat and the lack of structural units engaged in policy-making further impedes results in the implementation of the ministries reform.

The Ministries of Health, Infrastructure, and Finance are lagging behind on the established terms for selection and recruitment of reform specialists. This creates obstacles for proper functioning of their directorates.

Insufficiently adequate leadership of reform by the Prime Minister is also among reasons behind non-implementation, delays in implementation, or partial implementation of a number of the Strategy’s objectives. Authority in this regard has been delegated to the Minister of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine. However, his stature and influence are inadequate for achieving radical change, given that many ministers have a subjective opinion of the reform and consider it unnecessary. Activization could be enhanced by strengthening the Prime Minister’s influence over respective ministers in this regard. This would help destroy the deeply rooted stereotypes among politicians and officials that traditional post-Soviet methods of the ministries’ work must be preserved.

In April, EU has launched the implementation of its EU4PAR project in Ukraine. The project is aimed at supporting the implementation of the Strategy for Public Administration Reform.

Viktoria Derets, Ihor Koliushko, Experts of the Centre of Policy and Legal Reform

Original article: BlogActive