The article has been prepared for analytical articles’ contest on "Public Administration Reform in Georgia“, announced by the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) within the EU-funded project “Contributing to PAR through Civic Monitoring and engagement”. The content may not reflect the opinion of IDFI/the European Union.
Author of the article: Bacho Bitari Khuroshvili
In the field of civil service policy, the state declares such ambitious values as professionalism, efficient and effective civil service, good faith, meritocratic and career-based system, equality, accountability, and more. However, the given values remain largely neglected at the level of policy implementation. So for example, a career-based model does not work in practice, and this is evidenced by the fact that we do not actually have an increase between the class and the ranks. At the same time, there is a problem of staff turnover in the civil service system, and although guarantees are created at the declaration level to prevent unfair dismissal of officials, on a practical level there are still cases leading to litigation. A problematic issue is the evaluation of civil servants and the determination of salaries, which in some cases puts employees in an unequal position. Considering the above, the system is in fact closed to the recruitment of qualified staff from outside, which poses additional problems for the efficient and effective functioning of the civil service system.
The Georgian civil service system and state civil service policy are based on a career-based model. This means that a civil servant should grow by position and professionally over a certain period along with the implementation of the activities. This model in the Georgian reality is limited by the framework of ranks and classes. Thus, it is interesting to see how effective and efficient the goals and efforts of the state are in implementing the declared policy. This can be measured based on an analysis of statistics of two years published by the Civil Service Bureau (Bureau, 2019; Bureau, 2020), study and evaluation of which allows us to draw specific conclusions.
According to these statistics, in 2019 only 0.87% of the total number of employees were in the second rank, while after one year this figure increased by only 0.23%. We can therefore assume that first-class public officials for some reason failed to earn the appropriate points for promotion, although there are questions as to what led to the almost zero increase (See annex 1). The problem of turnover from the system of 12th class civil servants is a sign of a problematic and negative trend. If in 2019 they represented 5.7% of the total number of civil servants, according to 2020 statistics, this number decreased to 1.78% (See annex 2). In this respect, the result is deplorable because the turnover of first-class officials is not as big a problem for the civil service system as the turnover of top-ranking officials. This clearly implies that qualified and competent civil servants leave the system. This factor can be explained for two reasons: the first is that 11th class civil servants failed to earn the appropriate points for promotion, and the second is that civil service proved to be undesirable for qualified personnel.
The system of classes and ranks in this form launched in Georgia in 2017. Two years after the latter, 2280 officers had a class. And this is due to the fact that a large part of the officers entered the system after class equalization. If a particular employee had previously earned the rank of "True State Counselor", it was recognized as the 12th class for him/her, as the same approach applied to the other 11 classes. This clearly means that most of the officials will not be able to obtain a class rank through professional development within three years. This is all more visible at the data level, as only 5.6% of officials had been assigned a class after three years from the launch of this model. There is a notable and ambivalent trend in the quantitative distribution of classes as well. For example, in 2019, the number of civil servants of the 11th class was 0.0049% of the total amount, the number of 7th class civil servants was 0.012%, and 0.049% represented the 2nd class (See annex 3). This type of data implies that the civil service system and the given statistics themselves reflect the problem of staff qualifications. However, legitimate questions are as to whether such an obscure distribution and imbalance is due to qualifications or because officials are not evaluated accordingly?
As already mentioned, the statistics of the same years also have negative indicators in the context of the turnover of officials from the system. If in 2019 1580 civil servants left the system, in 2020 this figure was increase by 2108 (See annex 4). One factor that shall be highlighted here is that the turnover of staff from the civil service system takes place against the background of the state declaring to be trying to create a stable bureaucratic apparatus, and the above numbers indicate the implementation problems only. Nevertheless, according to 2019 data, the number of disciplinary misconduct in the civil service system is 283, which is not a high figure at all. However, it is clear that the system is trying to solve problems covertly, so, commonly, the Civil Service Bureau does not receive information about the misconduct. These problems are evidenced by various studies (Charkviani, 2014; Dolidze, 2015; Devdariani, 2015; Berishvili, 2018).
Illegal dismissal is another major problem for the civil service system. It is noteworthy that the new political and legal framework has introduced into the system tools that theoretically protect the official from unfair decisions, nevertheless, there are still frequent cases when civil servants leave the civil service system in violation of the rule. This is well evidenced by litigation where dozens of citizens are seeking compensation for the damage. However, what has been created in the wake of public administration reform is to be appreciated, as officials today have the political and legal tools to argue in court that did not exist in the old framework. If before the new law the dismissal of officials by announcing a "reorganization" in the civil service was a simple procedure, now it is prohibited by law, which is a step forward in this regard.
Another problematic issue in policy enforcement is the evaluation of civil servants. Today, the law gives autonomy of evaluation by a superior and/or the commission to the civil service, but also stipulates that this process shall be carried out at least once a year. In this respect, commission evaluation is more transparent and fair. Evaluation by a superior leads to more subjective decisions. The same type of problem is the rule of determining the salary for a position. The new political and legal framework allows two specialists working side by side in the same department to have different salaries. The latter involves the logical definition of salary ratios, which is also set by the head/superior. If he/she calculates the salary of one of them by 0.4x and the other by 0.8x, then the one will have two times higher salary than the other, which raises questions, how fairly can a superior determine who should receive a certain amount as a salary?
An important problem and challenge in the field of civil service policy is that the system is locked for the recruitment of qualified staff from outside, which can be considered as a direct shortcoming of the career-based model. Today it is legally possible to get into the system in two ways. The first is an employment contract, the second is employment at the lowest rank (fourth rank). There is one exception, which is called an open competition, although in practice these competitions are often held formally, while legally it can be held if no one else can be found in the entire civil service system to take the announced position, which is, in fact, a verdict for a competent and qualified staff, who expects the opportunity to be employed in a high position in the civil service system.
With all this in mind, we can conclude that there are significant differences in the civil service system between declared policy and policy implementation. The latter is most acute on issues such as the development of civil servants' careers, a locked-in system for recruiting qualified personnel from outside, the turnover of qualified personnel and weak meritocracy mechanisms, dismissals, and more.
1. Civil Service Bureau, Statistics in Civil Service 2019, available at: http://csb.gov.ge/media/2762/report_2019-statistics.pdf.
2. Civil Service Bureau, Statistics in Civil Service 2020, available at: http://www.csb.gov.ge/media/3170/9654.pdf.
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7. Ordinance #219 of the Government of Georgia on the Approval of the Rules and Conditions for Assigning Classes to a Professional Civil Servant (Government of Georgia, April 28, 2017).
8. Ordinance #203 of the Government of Georgia on the Approval of the Incentive Rules for Professional Civil Servants (Government of Georgia, April 21, 2017).
9. Ordinance #200 of the Government of Georgia on the Definition of General Rules of Ethics and Behavior in a Public Institution (Government of Georgia, April 20, 2017).
10. Ordinance #627 on the Approval of the Civil Service Reform Concept and Related Measures (Government of Georgia, November 19, 2014).
11. Ordinance #220 of the Government of Georgia on the Approval of the Rules and Conditions for the Evaluation of a Professional Civil Servant (Government of Georgia, April 28, 2017).
12. Ordinance #199 of the Government of Georgia on the Rules of Mobility of Professional Civil Servants (Government of Georgia, April 20, 2017).
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