Political parties divided over final format of Czech civil service framework

Photo: Filip Jandourek

The government’s flagship legislative proposal for a new civil service law is being scrutinized in parliament on Wednesday. But while some of the main lines have been sketched out, a lot of the details are still up in the air.

Photo: Filip Jandourek
Everyone is agreed on the importance of the new civil service law from the Czech president downwards. The Czech Republic is in the woeful position of being the last EU member state to push through laws setting out how an independent civil service should be established and run.

Promises to do something were made since 2002 without final results. Blatant examples of political parties using ministries as cash cows, cronyism, and more run of the mill poor administration are the sorry result. The threat from Brussels that EU funds would be frozen finally appears to be transforming words into actions. The lower house voted for a proposal last month but that was more a statement of intent and bears little relationship to the latest draft.

The broad lines of the most recent government proposal got its first airing before two committees of the lower house of parliament on Wednesday. The proposal includes the idea that a new so-called super civil servant would be tasked with making sure the recruitment, selection, and professional development of civil servants proceeds as planned. State secretaries in ministries would eye on the new depoliticized administrative machine.

The new super civil servant would have a seven year term with the position proofed against political interference. His or her dismissal by the government would only be possible if it were agreed by the president. Civil servants should also be protected against artificial shake ups at ministries aimed at making way for politicians’ friends or followers.

But many other details of how the new framework will work out in practices are unclear. I spoke to Lenka Petráková from the civic organisation Oživení about the many uncertainties which include the final scope of the new rules.

Lenka Petráková,  photo: archive of Rekonstrukce státu
“It is not clear at the moment which organisational institutions, what public authorities are going to be under the scope of the public service act. There is going to be a discussion on about certain institutions like the anti-monopoly office or the national audit office which claim do not be part of the public service act. ”

Civil service exams are also envisaged but it’s not clear who should have to pass them and what form they should take. New wage scales should also be thrashed out with the ANO party arguing that special provisions should be made for recruiting key experts. There is even a rather strange idea that the state police academy be put in charge of testing and training civil servants.

Petráková warns that the tight deadlines for getting the new law adopted for the start of 2015 and the procedures worked out in the following 12 months looks highly ambitious given the lack of agreement so far between the three coalition government parties.

“They have actually been discussing some issues for three months now without being able to come to a conclusion on certain issues. So, I think it’s rather optimistic that they will be able to propose to pass the act within several months.”

The growing pains of this particular piece of legislation will continue to be the subject of intense scrutiny within the Czech Republic and from outside.