A Good Civil Servant as the Key Factor of a Professional and Efficient Public Administration: Which Profile of Senior Civil Servant does Serbia Need?

November 7, 2017 – A roundtable titled A Good Civil Servant as the Key Factor of a Professional and Efficient Public Administration: Which Profile of Senior Civil Servant does Serbia Need? jointly organised by the French Embassy in Serbia and the European Policy Centre (CEP), was held on Tuesday at the French Cultural Center.

The event was organised within the framework of a project conducted by CEP, with the support of French Embassy, which aims to identify the current condition of the civil service system in Serbia, with a special emphasis on the process of professionalisation and depoliticisation of senior civil servants. The Roundtable discussed experiences of the French model, which were put forward by former and current government officials of this country.

The first panel Professionalisation and Depoliticisation as a Strategic Objective of Public Administration Reform was opened by Nicolas Faye, Charge d’Affaires of the Embassy of France, by especially highlighting the importance of this topic, as well as that France has been helping Serbia for several years with public administration reform. Srđan Majstorović, Chairman of the CEP’s Governing Board, reminded the participants that public administration reform is one of the three pillars of joining the EU, besides the economy and the rule of law, and warned that the current situation, where a large number of civil servants who were appointed as acting heads, is worrying.

“The European Commission report has criticized us on a large number of civil servants who are acting heads,” Majstorovic said.

Dr. Ivan Bošnjak, State Secretary in the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government (MPLSG) said that the senior civil servant position is very important, especially highlighting the importance of these individuals at the local level. He expressed hope that the establishment of the National Academy of Public Administration will help in career advancement of individuals in this top management position. Prof. Danilo Rončević, Director of Human Resources Management Service, said that it is especially important to talk about what profile of senior civil servant is needed, that is, what an ideal civil servant should be.

The second panel Senior Civil Servant – Between Form and Practice was moderated by Milena Lazarević, CEP’s Programme Director. Ranka Vujović, President of the High Civil Service Council, highlighted political interference in this area as one of the problems.

“Good and efficient public administration exists where expertise, and not politics, exerts influence. Effective public administration is one that clearly separates the political from the service functions,” said Vujović.

The establishment of the National Academy of Public Administration is an important step that will help continued training of civil servants, which is necessary in order to provide the highest quality of human resources, according to Ivana Savićević, Assistant Minister in the MPLSG.

France’s experience was presented by an expert Gilbert Elkaim, former official of the Ecole Nationale d’Administration (ENA) and Jean-Marc Legrand, Regional Director of the Centre National de la Fonction Publique Territoriale. Elkaim pointed out that it is crucial that in addition to academic knowledge, civil servants know how to apply this knowledge – at the most distinguished French school of public administration – during the two years at ENA, a common experience and a common spirit is acquired. He added that abuse and corruption should not be tolerated – every civil servant who has information about something illegal has not only a right but an obligation to report this to his superior – even the slightest risk of abuse must be identified and reported. Elkaim said that the public administration reform is a very long and difficult process, and that France needed 200 years to only achieve balance in this area. Legrand talked about a positive example in the French public administration – a system of protection of senior civil servants: a case cannot be resolved 6 months after the elections, in order to avoid abuse and dismissal for political reasons.

Towards the end of the meeting representatives from CEP, who conduct this research, added a few words: Programme Manager Dušan Protić and Researcher Vladimir MihajlovićMihajlović said that, if they want results, ministries must have the most competent personnel in top management positions, who will know how to implement these reform. Protić concluded that we need to talk about what type of government official we need because people in these positions are very important.

“Senior civil servants are a link between political appointees and civil servants in executive places,” Protić said.