The verdict on Czech civil servants: good work, poor attitude

Photo: CTK

Excessive red-tape and arrogant civil servants have long been a problem in the Czech Republic. A recent study conducted by the Prague-based Westminster Agency indicated that little has changed in this respect in the last 18 years. The agency says that it is not the performance of civil servants that's at the core of the problem - it is their attitude and the fact that little has been done to change it.

Photo: CTK
So how do Czechs see the typical civil servant? Tomas Studenik is the agency's director:

"People consider the typical Czech civil servant to be an unpleasant, unwilling, arrogant person - generally very unpleasant qualities associated with the profession. Only five percent of respondents said they considered the typical Czech civil servant to be a nice person and were happy with the way he or she works. And interestingly, the study showed that while people are unhappy about civil servants as such they are quite happy about the quality of their work."

So they just don't like the way they are being treated?

"What this shows is that the image or perception of the civil service -or civil servants - is very poor, is really bad in comparison to the work results that they have managed to deliver."

Ivan Langer,  photo: CTK
Well is nothing being done to change this?

"I think that this is a question for the interior minister, Mr. Langer, who wants to reform the civil service so that overtime the image, the perception of the civil service improves and young people will be eager and willing to join its ranks. So far it has not happened and it will require a lot of effort in terms of communication, information strategy, training of people and other activities."

I do not know if this is the first study you have conducted but has there been no improvement at all in the past fifteen years or so?

"This is actually the first study ever undertaken in this area. Prior to our activity there has been no effort to monitor or map or set the standard for perception of the civil service. We are now hoping that this study will be updated on a yearly basis -that politicians as well as the public will want to know whether the quality is going up or down, whether the perception of civil servants has changed for the better and whether the civil service has acquired greater appeal so to speak."

So what are you advising Mr. Langer to do on the basis of this study?

"What we would advise is perhaps to understand better what forms the image of civil servants and bureaucrats in this country and then to take active measures to change that image. This may require pro-active communication from the government and local governments, it could require more information delivered to people about what civil servants do for them and how we compare to the rest of the European Union or to the rest of the world - so it would take a lot of effort - targeted effort - to change this image because if it is not changed then people will be left with the residues of the communist perception of state bureaucracy as something synonymous to evil and immobility."