Thursday, 17 April 2014

Respekt: ČR needs to improve state administration managment

ČTK |
18 December 2012

Prague, Dec 17 (CTK) - The Czech Republic badly needs a radical improvement in the management of the state administration, Ludek Niedermayer writes in weekly Respekt out yesterday, commenting on the government's proposal to merge the Industry and Trade Ministry and the Transport Ministry into an economy one.

He writes that the idea is useful, but it is a question of whether the idea is well thought-out, whether it will be well executed and whether it would bring what it could bring.

First, it seemed that one of the major reasons why the idea was born was the inability of some government parties to find personalities whom they could send to the head of the ministries of defence and transport whose ministers resigned as from December, Niedermayer writes.

Only then the idea of saving money through the merger of the Industry and Trade Ministry and the Transport Ministry was born, he writes.

With regard for the minimal qualification demands placed on ministers that have been in force for many years not only in this country, the first reason is rather laughable, Niedermayer writes.

The other reason would find lots of supporters, but this might not be entirely justified, he adds.

The advocates of a small state may find the saving of one minister a good starting point, but what the country urgently needs is not a government having one or two fewer ministers, Niedermayer writes.

He writes that the Czechs mainly need a substantially better functioning ministries and the whole public administration whose current state is one of the major obstacles to development.

The merger of ministries alone does not mean a better or a smaller state. A substantially smaller and more effective state is built with other steps, Niedermayer writes.

He says it is mainly necessary to cancel redundant functions of ministries or prevent duplications. True, it is not an easy process with regard for the complexity of Czech rules that require lots of state interventions, agreements or assessments.

It is much easier to attain immediate operational savings like centralisation of agendas (central purchases, for instance), central property administration (particularly of real estate) and mainly the setting of standards for buying property (purchases of cars, for instance), Niedermayer writes.

He says the absence of such steps shows that the government's zeal in this respect is not that big.

The main reason for the ministries' merger would be the fact that the government does not have any office that would deal with what is one of the government's key agendas - the state's view of the economy and a search for optimal measures with which to influence it, Niedermayer writes.

On the contrary, it seems that particular ministries are deeply concentrated on "their" part of the economy and their minister is considered the "major lobbyist" or at least "protector" of the sector that gives the ministry its name irrespective of its importance in the economy, Niedermayer writes.

The two relatively well visible weak points of setting the government agendas are not negligible. The first is the dominance of the Finance Ministry, Niedermayer writes.

He says it has a very broad range of activities, including the management of customs officers (whose competence was challenged during the recent bootleg alcohol scandal) and lotteries supervision (that obviously did not function as it should have had).

Niedermayer writes that now, in the situation of fiscal consolidation, the ministry (that is relatively well expertly staffed) clearly focuses on a short-time reduction of the state budget deficit irrespective of whether certain chosen measures may be so painful in the future that they do not make sense on the whole.

The other weak point of the current arrangement is the strongly stumbling implementation of the state's key agendas, such as the Strategy for Competitiveness, Niedermayer writes.

Its creator and "owner," the Industry and Trade Ministry, has obvious difficulties to carry out the government-sponsored project while other ministries do not probably feel any need to help with this "project of the competition," Niedermayer writes.

He writes that a shift from the sector agenda would probably improve the opportunities to better force the implementation of necessary steps across the government.

The proposal to create a "super ministry" of the economy, even though it was made under strange circumstances and the government has not yet been able to precisely articulate its goals, could be a promising move that could help a better operation of the state, Niedermayer writes.

A mere trifle is missing - having quality and competent experts and a reasonable management working for citizens' benefit at this ministry just as anywhere else in the public sector, he writes.

No renaming, merging, splitting or creating a new office can ensure this. The way towards this goal will be more complicated than the path towards a new economy ministry however much the path towards it may have been strange, Niedermayer writes.

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