What does a civil ser­vant’s life look like?

Josh Koven­sky

Kyiv Post Legal Quarterly - - News - By koven­sky@kyivpost.com

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.”

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