“Super civil servant” expected to transform country’s ailing public administration

Josef Postránecký, photo: CTK

It is being described as a revolution in the country’s public administration. Josef Postránecký, the “super civil servant” handpicked by the government last week, is expected to transform the country’s slow and often corrupt civil service into a professional and non-politicized administration in line with modern European standards.

Josef Postránecký, photo: CTK
After more than a decade of political controversy, the Czech Republic has a new law on civil service that is expected to bring a new order into the workings of public administration – give civil servants greater job security and the public guarantees that the state administration is indeed a service for the public, not an instrument in the hands of whatever government happens to be in power.

The man expected to mastermind this transformation is fifty-three-year old Josef Postránecký, who himself has spent the last 17 years in the civil service. Although the government’s initial idea that the “super civil servant” should have complete independence from politicians and head his own institution failed to win support in Parliament, Mr. Postránecký has been assured he will get both the necessary independence and support as “deputy interior minister for the civil service”. The country’s top bureaucrat will be in office for six-years – a length of time exceeding the term of one government, can only serve a single term in office and may only be recalled for a gross violation of work ethics. He will be answerable to the interior minister and work closely with the European Commission. At a press briefing preceding his ushering into office on Monday, Mr. Postránecký said communication would be essential in the task ahead.

“Communication with individual ministries and state institutions will be a key factor in making this transformation a success. All the relevant institutions have already been informed about the changes that the new civil service law will bring and we want to make sure that they will continue to work smoothly through the transition so that the public and entrepreneurs do not suffer any inconvenience as a result. “

Among the stated priorities for reforming the civil service are greater professionalism and greater stability, not an administration where the heads of section change with every new government. Also, there will be clear rules governing the requirements for the job – some civil servants may have to improve their qualifications for a post they have been doing for years and others – in managerial positions – will have to choose between a political career and a career in public administration. Three deputies at various ministries from parties of the ruling coalition will have to pack their bags or give up their political ambitions. And there will be no more cushy jobs in public administration for those who helped politicians to the top. The tough new rules which are intended to depoliticize the civil service and reduce the level of corruption are valid not just for individual ministries but for all state institutions -finance and customs offices, labor offices, the Energy Regulatory Office or the Anti-Trust Office. Within several months the team masterminding the overhaul of the country’s civil service will have to decide which of the roughly 70, 000 employees at these institutions will be recognized as civil servants and which of them will remain mere employees protected by the labour act, but not the law on civil service.

The effected changes will not only be under intense media scrutiny here in the Czech Republic, but also be closely watched from Brussels, where the European Commission has repeatedly voiced dissatisfaction with the state of the Czech civil service and which may withhold European funds in given areas if it is not satisfied that the respective conditions have been met.