Terms of conducting mandatory contests in local authorities are adjourned for the fourth time
Yesterday the Parliament has adopted the amendment to the Law "on the Civil Service" by a simplified procedure - through one hearing. The draft law was registered in the Parliament on September 15, authored and initiated by a member of parliamentary faction "Georgian Dream" Gia Zhorzholiani. Pursuant to the amendment, time limits for conducting contests on the positions of local self-government servants, which must be occupied by means of a contest, have changed once again and the new term was set at 31 December 2014. Under previous version of the Law, this term was to expire on 31 October. This means that terms of office of acting servants have also been extended for two months. Author of the draft Law believes the extension is necessary because owing to the new civil service regulations, completing required actions for holding the contests before October 31 would be impossible. Explanatory note referred to the self-government election runoffs, which have tightened existing time limits even further, as one of the reasons of extension.
In this specific case, "Transparency International - Georgia" finds the justification of the amendment's author for the proposed postponement of holding the contests to be substantiated. Yet, as already noted, this is the fourth adjournment of the reform, and the changed time limits are the result of inefficiently planned reform.
Pending local self-government reform is a painful process and at this time of crucial importance is the stability of each stage of the reform development, as well as to create clear and distinct expectations for the interested parties, and especially several thousands of civil servants. Frequent changes to the time limits of contests may significantly undermine this process.
Provided below is the summary of previous changes.
Prior to 2012, an acting servant in the civil service could have held the position to be occupied by means of a contest for an indefinite time, while holding a contest was not a mandatory procedure. The amendments of 29 June 2012 to the Law "on the Civil Service" have introduced certain limitations, namely, acting high officials could have held office for one year only, and on other positions - for three months. Enactment of this language of the law, and accordingly counting off the terms should have started on 1 January 2013.
By legislative amendments of 21 December 2012, the Parliament of a new calling has postponed counting off this term for 6 months and set the effective date at 1 July 2013. However, in 29 days from enactment of the law, on July 29, the Parliament has once again changed its mind and introduced 1 July 2014 as the date for enacting the law for the officials, while 1 January 2014 - for other civil servants. Remarkably, these dates implied deadlines for appointing a person who has won a contest on a position, and not for announcing the contest.
Despite considerable extension of original time limits, in December 2013 the Parliament has once again extended the term introduced by itself for the certain category of civil servants; in particular, pursuant to the December 13 amendment, "a contest on the position of a local self-government servant, which shall be occupied by means of a contest, shall be held on 31 October 2014 the latest". Yet, just like in case of previous amendments, this change proved to be improperly calculated and inadequate for all developing scenarios, because one month prior to enacting the amendments it became necessary to adjourn the time limits for holding the contests for the fourth time.
Notably, under the 5 September 2014 Decree of the Government, the National Examinations Center and the Training Center of Justice will hold a mandatory stage of contest of civil servants - the certification (testing) - through a centralized procedure, while the Civil Service Bureau will determine method, topics and evaluation criteria. It is of crucial importance that along with these essential changes, a trust increases in the civil service towards the contests, which is a milestone in terms of the reform's success. The same is attested by the study we have carried out in 2013, according to which only acting servants have won in case of 87% of contests held in the institutions of central authorities, while up to 30 individuals have approached our organization with concerns over the fairness of contests.
"Transparency International - Georgia" calls on:
- The Parliament, to take into account all circumstances when determining the date of holding a mandatory contest, so that another change of time limits is avoided;
- The Civil Service Bureau and the contest-certification commissions of relevant agencies, to formulate very clear, measurable criteria to reduce the risk of bias to maximum; elaborate transparent and effective procedures for staffing the contest commission; make the course, results and justification of the contest more transparent, and the information - more available for the interested parties.