What does a civil servant’s life look like?
Ukraine's hopes for a more effective and less corrupt govenrment rely on 9-to-5 workers, the nation's nearly 400,000 civil servants. Many of them lack engaging work, are short of basic resources such as office supplies and, more dispiritingly, all are officially underpaid.
Without change, government service is not likely to improve or become less corrupt.
“Stop by any ministry any morning, and ask some miserable person in a grey coat, with a miserable face, with a grim look, ask them how they live,” said Denis Brodsky, ex-chairman of National Agency on Public Services.
Brodsky works as human resources director for Victor Pinchuk’s Starlight Media, but also serves as an expert on civil service reform at the Reanimation Package of Reforms.
He served as head of Ukraine’s civil service oversight agency for only six weeks in 2014 before quitting after a conflict with Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and what he describes as members of the Ukrainian government’s “old guard.”
Reforming the civil service will require drastically changing work lives. Civil servants are paid as little as $100 monthly, contributing to unhappiness and boredom.
“But,” Brodsky said, “at least this is some sort of job and some sort of income.”
month and lives off money she earned before going into civil service in 2014.
Artem Sytnyk, head of the National Anti-corruption Bureau, receives Hr 70,000 monthly.
Andriy Kobolev, CEO of state-energy company Naftogaz, makes Hr 26,000 a month.
While even the most powerful and known civil servants make in a month what some Western leaders make in a few hours, Ukraine’s average civil servant lives on even less: Hr 3,700 each month -- not even $150 a month.
Deputy Infrastructure Minister Vladimir Omelyan said that turnover is high because top workers have other options.
“The main breakthrough at the ministry was done by volunteers,” Omelyan told the Kyiv Post. “And now they are leaving -- problems with their families, their lives -- because they’re underpaid.” Are there perks? Many of Ukraine’s government ministries perform overlapping work. A requirement that every government action has a specific, parliament-approved legal definition means that official responses quickly drown in legalese.
As irritating as this is for millions of Ukrainian citizens, this work is meaningless and draining for civil servants, too.
“They come and do an unnecessary job,” said Brodsky. “Meaningless.”
Belogrud, 27, said that his office lacks computers, meaning that civil servants must buy their own in order to complete their work.
“To buy a good laptop, I need to save all my pay for half a year,” Belogrud told the Kyiv Post.
Ivan Khilobok, an adviser at the Presidential Administration and a public administration reform manager at the National Reforms Council, told the Kyiv Post that many ministries still maintain resorts and sanatoriums left over from the Soviet days for their workers.
“They are in the Carpathian Mountains, on the Black Sea – across Ukraine,” Khilobok said. But those small perks will likely be swept away. “It’s better for the government to dismiss all the noncore assets and non state-function assets, like vacation assets or resorts, and privatize them and then just give normal salaries to civil servants, so they can take a holiday if they want, either in Ukraine or outside,” Khilobok said.
Belogrud, the Interior Ministry worker, said that he and his co-workers receive little benefits for their work beyond their paltry salary.
“I think it is unjust,” he said. “People who save the lives of others, each day risking their own, should receive worthy pay.”
Khilobok added that few people regard the civil service with any respect, which only degrades the quality of its workers.
“In the USSR civil servants were the highest class in society,” Khilobok said. “It used to be a matter of prestige.”