OPINION

Need for reform

Following a coordinated push to speed up Olympics preparations and an inevitable focus on efforts to reach a Cyprus settlement, the New Democracy administration has drafted its first piece of legislation – a bill aimed at overhauling public administration and curbing state bureaucracy. The drafting of the bill highlights the government’s determination to start by tackling the most daunting problems on its agenda. At the same time, it shows that the government believes cutting the red tape in citizens’ dealings with the State is a top priority. The bill not only deals with public administration issues but it also seeks to address the various problems that beset local government authorities and aspects of government organization. According to Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, the bill seeks to simplify the internal functioning of public services, to increase the number of citizens’ information and service centers, to introduce integrated transactions centers, to purge the system of corruption and to introduce civil liability for the State and its functionaries in cases of mistreatment. Furthermore, the government is promoting a string of measures aimed at improving staff evaluations, codifying complex legislation and rationalizing economic planning. All these sectors are in need of drastic administrative reform. Although some steps have been made, public administration still falls short of meeting its central obligation of serving the citizen and has instead become synonymous with waste and corruption. In the light of this ailing situation, we should not fail to acknowledge that the bill is a move in the right direction. It is worth pointing out that the problems that plague public administration are not merely a question of legal provisions but of the current administrative structure, as well as of staff behavior and mentality. The legal framework may guarantee viability and transparency but it is up to everyday administrative practice to propose merges or the decentralization of services, curb or rationalize state intervention in dealings and to implement the conditions that promote customer service and reward honesty and initiative among the staff. Human resource management is a tougher goal than the rationalization of the legal context and the government must try to achieve it by fulfilling its campaign pledge for meritocracy, always keeping in mind that the reform of administration – the State, local government authorities and public services – demands a revolutionary change in mentality and practice for which legal amendments are just the first step.