State recruitment faces skepticism

The proposed legislation concerning the (necessary) restructuring of public utilities contains a provision, presumably added as a compromise, dictating that hirings by organizations in which the state owns a majority stake will henceforth be conducted by the civil service recruitment watchdog. This includes those companies listed on the Athens stock market. The above provision alone can hardly guarantee the restructuring of public utilities – also known as DEKO – as it falls far short of meeting their true needs. However, it offers a stark reflection of our deadlocked political system. ASEP, the Supreme Council for Personnel Selection, is effectively being brought in to stave off pressure from voters seeking jobs. This is a serious consequence of the public’s lack of confidence in the political system. Many are convinced that public sector recruitments are made on the basis of connections rather than merit. The introduction of ASEP as an independent selection process was a sign of progress at the time. However, the decision to extend ASEP’s authority over firms that are listed on the Athens bourse, and which are on the track to privatization, is a cause for concern. It’s a sign that politicians and the public alike are stuck in an old mentality. Who needs ASEP anyway? All parliamentary factions, it seems, as they have failed to reverse people’s lack of trust in recruitment procedures. DEKO managers also appear to need ASEP as a legitimizer, given that most people remain unconvinced that appointments are decided in transparent fashion. On the other hand, it is an open secret that although ASEP procedures are above board, they are quite complex and time consuming. Needs are usually met after long delays, while the system does not always ensure that the post goes to the right person. Particularly in the case of public utilities that are listed on the stock exchange and which are exposed to market competition, the slow, bureaucratic procedure often comes with negative consequences. Politicians’ willingness to suffer these consequences in order to avoid public complaints essentially exposes the failure of the governing system that has persisted for decades.