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The Key Moment of Administrative Reform

On August 4, under the chairmanship of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, a video conference on public service reform and management efficiency improvement was held. This meeting is a logical continuation of the administrative reform carried out in recent years- writes Viktor Abaturov, CERR

The issues of low efficiency of public administration were the most painful in the period preceding the beginning of a new stage of reforms, which began in 2017. At that time, the question of the need for administrative reform was repeatedly raised, but serious actions in this direction did not follow.

However, already in the Strategy of Actions for the five priority areas of Development of the Republic of Uzbekistan in 2017-2021, approved in January 2017, one of the most important priorities was the reform of the public administration system, providing for its decentralization, reforming the civil service, ensuring openness of the activities of authorities and management, improving the “Electronic Government” system, improving efficiency, quality provision and accessibility of public services for the population and business entities.

On September 8, 2017, the Presidential Decree approved the Concept of administrative reform in the Republic of Uzbekistan, which was based on the idea of the President “not the people should serve state bodies, but state bodies should serve the people.” The Concept identified six main directions of radical reform of the public administration system from improving the institutional and organizational and legal foundations of the activities of executive authorities to the formation of an effective system of professional public service, the introduction of effective mechanisms to combat corruption in the system of executive authorities.

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The concept introduced an effective system of coordination and control over the activities of executive authorities: “The Office of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan – the Cabinet of Ministers – republican public administration bodies – structural and territorial divisions – local executive authorities.” A drastic reduction of interdepartmental collegial bodies was envisaged, with the transfer of their powers to specific state bodies and the assignment of responsibility for the results of decisions taken to them. A decision analysis model was adopted aimed at preventing the adoption of regulatory legal acts without a proper assessment of their impact, as well as the gradual elimination of the practice of adopting departmental regulatory legal acts.

Later on, all decisions related in one way or another to the activities of authorities and management were based on the approaches laid down in the Concept of Administrative Reform.

The next important step in improving the public administration system was the release on October 3, 2019 of the Decree “On measures to radically improve the personnel policy and the system of public civil service in the Republic of Uzbekistan” and the Presidential Decree on the organization of the activities of the Agency for the Development of Public Service under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan (ADPS).

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The tasks of ADPS included the development of reforms in the field of public civil service, coordination of the personnel policy of state agencies, the introduction of innovative methods of personnel management, management of the National Personnel Reserve, the introduction of a system for evaluating the effectiveness of civil servants, the organization of an open independent competitive selection for vacant positions, and more. The Agency was also given the “El-Yurt Umidi” Foundation under the Government of Uzbekistan, which trains young specialists abroad. A Fund was also created to support the development of the civil service, the funds of which are directed by ADPS to scientific research, internships of officials abroad, and the involvement of qualified specialists.

In November 2021, by Presidential Decree, a republican commission was established to coordinate the development of the Program of Administrative Reforms of the New Uzbekistan for 2022-2023 and working groups to develop proposals on determining the status, improving the structures and optimizing the staffing units of public administration bodies, improving human resources, preventing corruption, etc. These groups were tasked with ensuring mutually coordinated and effective activities of public administration bodies; delineate the functions of ministries, state committees, agencies, and other bodies in the field of state policy implementation; perform control functions, provide public services to individuals and legal entities; implement systems of specific indicators and target indicators.

Thanks to the work carried out in this direction, the Development Strategy of the New Uzbekistan in the field of improving the public administration system reflects such goals as “Bringing the institutional foundations of the activities of local government authorities in line with modern requirements”, “Transformation of the activities of public administration bodies based on the principle of “orientation to serve citizens”, “Introduction of a compact, professional, fair and serving to achieve high efficiency of the public administration system”, “Reduction of the administrative apparatus in the public administration system and optimization of work processes”.

Thanks to the ongoing course on improving the public administration system, a system of dialogue with the people has been established, the distribution of part of the budget funds based on the initiatives of the population, direct work with the population in mahallas. It has become much easier to obtain licenses, order services, submit documents to various authorities, and use payment systems. Thanks to this, the desire of citizens to participate more actively in the development of the country, their mahalla is growing. For example, in the first half of this year, more than 2,000 such projects were launched using the Open Budget portal, through which civic initiatives are implemented. Currently, 118 thousand people work in the state civil service for the effective work of which proper conditions have been created.

At the same time, many shortcomings continue to persist in the field of public administration. Too much bureaucracy continues to persist. For example, to receive a subsidy, conclusions from an average of 10 ministries and departments are required. Connection to electrical networks is associated with unnecessary expenses and paperwork. In medicine, it is not always clear to citizens which service is free and which is paid, there is no clear system for calculating and delivering medicines from the state. Many processes that are inconvenient for the population and entrepreneurs continue to persist in construction, transport, utilities, standardization and quarantine. At the same time, last year, 25 thousand complaints were received by the People’s Reception Offices about the incompetence and irresponsibility of employees of ministries and departments, 7 thousand complaints about their lack of communication culture.

Some officials do not cope with their duties due to the lack of a system for identifying competencies, training and improving work. Only 20% of civil servants have improved their qualifications, among managers this figure is less than 1%, and their deputies — less than 5%. In addition, more than 50% of those who have completed advanced training courses are dissatisfied with the quality of training. In 6 months, 37 district and city khakims were replaced in Uzbekistan, who lacked knowledge and skills. As the analysis showed, 40% of the heads of the central offices of ministries did not work at the district level, and 60% of the heads of the district level have no experience in regional or republican departments.

Therefore, in his speech at the joint session of the chambers of the Oliy Majlis, the Head of State noted that “the next important task is to create a compact and effective management system focused on the needs of citizens through the transformation of central departments.

The meeting chaired by the President of Uzbekistan on August 4 considered issues related to the law “On State Civil Service”, after two years of development approved by the Senate in May 2022. The law was developed as a document of direct action and is aimed at comprehensive legal regulation of the state civil service. It applies only to civil servants and establishes service to the people as one of the principles of the civil service, introduces a requirement to declare income and property, an assessment of activities based on KPIs and a ban on the admission to the civil service of persons who have committed corruption crimes.

At the meeting, the President set priority tasks for state bodies based on the requirements of this law. First of all, an open and transparent system of recruitment to government agencies will be introduced. To do this, all vacant positions will be placed on a single open electronic platform by the end of the year. The requirement to provide 16 documents for participation in the competition for the vacant position will be canceled, all processes will be transferred to electronic form. The candidate’s knowledge, experience and potential will be evaluated at an open competition. This system has already been tested experimentally in the Samarkand region and the State Tax Committee.

It was indicated that each Ministry and khokimiyat should begin the selection of personnel from higher educational institutions. In order to establish systematic work in this direction, a program for the selection of young specialists will be announced. Within the framework of the program, talented graduate students will be selected who will undergo an internship in the system of ministries and khokimiyats, and after training they will be hired. The program will also cover young people studying abroad.

The President stressed the need to pay special attention to the promotion of personnel according to the principle “from the makhalla to the republican level“. To do this, from November 1, the old-style objective certificate will be canceled and a system for assessing the qualifications and achievements of an employee based on advanced technologies will be used.

A reserve of potential personnel for senior positions at the district and city levels will also be created, which will be replenished from among the assistants of khokims and youth leaders in mahallas. Depending on their competence, targeted qualification courses will be organized for them. The Agency for Civil Service Development, the Agency for Youth Affairs, together with the Vatandoshlar Foundation, has been tasked with implementing the “100 Advanced Leaders” program, within which 100 promising young personnel from among civil servants, active entrepreneurs and compatriots abroad will be selected every two years.

Attention was also paid to improving the quality of public services in government agencies. “The main requirement is the satisfaction of people,” Shavkat Mirziyoyev said on this occasion. The Prime Minister was instructed to make the service processes in each ministry and khokimiyat understandable and convenient, to reduce unnecessary expenses and documents. It is planned to allocate another 1 trillion sums for such “Open Budget” projects in the next 6 months. Therefore, the responsible persons are tasked with expanding the scale of initiative budgeting.

The issues of attractiveness of the civil service were also touched upon, since in the conditions of competition in the labor market, the civil service should also attract capable and qualified personnel. Therefore, the President stressed that the guarantees of the activities of civil servants will also be strengthened. In particular, starting next year, a system of incentives will be introduced depending on the employee’s experience, qualifications and results. Their life and health will be insured by the state. Civil servants who honestly and conscientiously perform their duties will be guaranteed a decent old age.

The issue of training and advanced training of civil servants was also touched upon. The Academy of Public Administration under the President, which is a reference educational institution, will be transformed “on the basis of the most advanced foreign experience.” Within two months, the Cabinet of Ministers should review the activities of 110 training centers in the system of ministries and approve a targeted program for updating training programs and methods. The responsible persons were instructed to create joint educational programs with foreign training centers and train 5,000 civil servants by the end of the year.

The President instructed the Head of the Presidential Administration to complete administrative reforms by the end of the year to introduce a “compact, professional, fair, result-oriented management system.”

The question arises why the processes of improving public administration, which began back in 2017, have not yet been completed? The fact is that the reform of public administration is one of the most difficult and slow reforms in the whole world, as clearly evidenced by foreign experience.

The need for changes in public administration appeared in most developed countries of the world in the late 1970s and 1980s against the background of accelerated development of post-industrial society and provoked the reform of public administration based on the concept of “new public management” in the 1990s and 2000s. Albert Gore – former Vice President of the United States, head of the Commission on Administrative Reform in the United States – defined the goal reforms like “creating a government that works better and costs less.”

N. Parison and N. Manning, based on the analysis of the progress of administrative reforms in 14 countries of the world, identify their 4 systemic goals: reducing public spending with the support of a favorable climate for investment; increasing the ability to implement policies while overcoming resistance from interested circles; improving the performance of the state’s functions as an employer while limiting total labor costs; improving the quality of services and strengthening public and private sector confidence in the government. The following principles should be the basis of all ongoing administrative reforms: democratization, separation of powers by levels of government, customer orientation, focus on the final result, profitability, achieving ease of management.

Administrative reforms are associated with transformations in the system of executive power and, based on foreign experience in their implementation, distinguish functional, procedural and structural models.

Functional reforms involve carrying out a functional analysis of the executive power system, optimizing the powers of state bodies, eliminating redundant and duplicative functions. The State reserves strategic management. For example, as a result of the merger of the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Labor in Germany in 2002, the Ministry of Labor and Economy was formed. In 2003, the United States created the Department of Homeland Security, which united 22 different services.

Within the framework of the procedural model of administrative reform, the procedures for decision-making and their implementation are changing. The main mechanisms are regulation and standardization of the provision of public services; simplification and transparency of administrative procedures. Currently, most European countries have laws on administrative procedures. In parallel with the administrative reform, the “Electronic Government” program was implemented in most countries. One of the key positions of the procedural model is changing the status of a civil servant.

Structural reforms are considered to be the most complex, have a complex nature and involve systemic changes in public administration, including the differentiation of the functions of strategizing, operational management functions and functions for the provision of public services. Structural reforms have been consistently carried out in Anglo-Saxon countries (Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand), while Romano-Germanic countries follow a less radical path. The most significant characteristics of this type of administrative reforms are considered to be the decentralization of public administration and the development of a network of decentralized institutions providing public services, including using market mechanisms.

It is obvious that it is almost impossible to achieve all these conditions, indicated by experts, in a short time. Therefore, reforms are being implemented rather slowly and countries are prioritizing priorities. In the Anglo-Saxon countries, the emphasis was placed on creating a system to protect the interests of individuals. In the Romano-Germanic countries, the emphasis was placed on ensuring the effectiveness of the activities of public authorities, the implementation of mechanisms for involving civil society institutions in managerial decision-making. For the post-Soviet countries, the elimination of excessive direct public administration in the economic and social spheres remains relevant.

In conclusion of the foreign experience, it is worth adding that in fact the administrative reform has not been completed in any country in the world. In fact, its implementation in the context of ongoing changes in the global economy marked the beginning of successive stages of changing various aspects and characteristics of public administration. However, regardless of the reform model, the targets of each country are to reduce public spending on the maintenance of the apparatus, improve the quality of public services and the effectiveness of public administration in general.

Speaking about the speed of processes in the field of improving public administration in Uzbekistan, it is impossible not to emphasize the deep and rapid systemic transformations in society, economy and state that have occurred since 2017. When previously developed countries faced the transition to a post-industrial economy, they were forced to carry out administrative reforms, which continue today, that is, they have a consistent stabilizing character in relation to the ongoing changes.

Public administration is the framework that ensures the smooth progressive development of the economy and society in order to avoid various kinds of crises. Therefore, public administration reforms are carried out especially carefully and carefully, avoiding sudden movements and ill-considered decisions, since the effectiveness of public administration is based on real relations and the state of affairs in the economy and in society.

Nevertheless, what has been done in Uzbekistan in this direction in recent years already allows us to talk about a new quality of relations between government bodies, business and citizens, and in general, the process of change is proceeding quite quickly. And the meeting on public service reform held on August 4, in view of the extensive tasks set at it, is another important step in deepening the administrative reform, which should be completed in general terms at the current stage by the end of the year.

Its further deepening will make it possible to create a system of public administration that meets global trends, capable of ensuring the rights and freedoms of citizens, decent living conditions and activities of civil servants, timely identify and effectively solve problems of socio-political and socio-economic development, as well as ensure the full implementation of the planned reforms.

Viktor Abaturov, CERR

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