Revolution in the air, with reforms to bureaucracy

Faced with a state administration that has fallen into near-paralysis because of its inherent deficiencies, the government is pushing through legislation aimed at the adoption of modern principles of private management in order to break the bureaucratic logjam. The measures include the two fundamental ones of providing incentives and speedy promotion while also introducing evaluation and, thereby, accountability of civil servants. Interior Minister Costas Skandalidis yesterday unfolded a wide-ranging program of changes which, among other things, provides for swift promotion for employees, with civil servants being able to attain managerial positions as early as the age of 35. Civil servants will also be able to transfer to other ministries in pursuit of better posts and they will undergo continual testing with set evaluation mechanisms. Pay will be tied to the employee’s rank and productivity, unlike today when civil servants are paid purely on the basis of length of time spent in employment, irrespective of the position they hold or the responsibilities they have. In a major change, there will also be a clear definition of the hierarchy in the public administration. A previous PASOK administration in 1984 had scrapped the general directorates of ministries and rolled position and pay into one system where starting salaries were based on employees’ level of education. From there on, all employees received pay rises according to the number of years they had worked, resulting in some cases of cleaners or messengers having higher salaries than senior ministry officials. A special corps of «management economists» will be formed to realize the reforms. A bill will be tabled in Parliament after Easter. The aim of reforms is to improve services for the public. They are to be introduced by 2003 and are one part of the triptych of «decentralization, transparency in state business and the introduction of indices measuring the productivity of services and the evaluation of personnel.» The plans presented by Skandalidis allow civil servants with 12 years on the job to apply for managerial positions and those with 17 years’ experience for the posts of general directors. The hierarchy will have five levels: At the bottom are the candidate employees who will undergo training for two years to specialize for a position before being evaluated and then given a permanent post. Above this level will be five-year tenures, followed by department heads. Above them will be directors and, at the top, general directors. The last-named positions will be open to competition and any employees in the broader public sector with the right qualifications will be able to apply. People applying for the positions of department head, director and general director will have to have postgraduate degrees and know foreign languages. They will be evaluated on the basis of their annual evaluation reports, written exams and interviews with a committee of experts from the School of Public Administration.

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