Issue 4, 2013. August-September

   

REFORMING THE CIVIL SERVICE: AN INTERVIEW WITH IRAKLI KOTETISHVILI

Georgia is working on creating a modern civil service based on professionalism, not nepotism. Investor.ge spoke with the head of the Civil Service Bureau, Irakli Kotetishvili, about the reforms and their potential to help the economy and business.

Georgia has struggled with a tradition of nepotism for generations, but over the past several years the effort to force government agencies to hire based on ability, not family ties, has been growing.

Having clear procedures for hiring, firing, job descriptions and promotions are a key element of eliminating nepotism in the public service.

Irakli Kotetishvili, the head of the Civil Service Bureau (CSB), is working with USAID, NATO and HR heads from ministries and state agencies to create the country's first human resource handbook for public service.

"[I]f you take an example of the civil service and the civil servants who are appointed via nepotism, that means that they don't do their job well because they are not selected because they are skilled, because they are educated, because they are experienced; they are just picked because they have a relative in the government," he said.

"This type of civil servant, he or she cannot provide good service to the citizen or to business in general. So I think weak and unprofessional civil servants have a direct impact on the smooth running of any type of business in any part of the world."

In addition to the HR manual, CSB has also created a website, www.hr.gov.ge, to make recruitment more transparent. State agencies use the site to post jobs for public servants. There are 86,000 public servants working in Georgia, who are five percent of the country's workforce, according to official statistics.

"[T]alks about the reform of the Georgian civil service have been going on for years now. The previous government made huge improvements in reshaping the whole civil service. And the services that our citizens receive today are of much higher quality than they were years ago," Kotetishvili said.

"However, I think that the core of the civil service, which doesn't have the face-to-face communication with business -- which works every day behind doors -- it still needs to be reformed."

CSB is working with the government and parliament to improve legislation: as a policy-making organization it can lobby for change but not make laws.

"[W]e are a policy-making agency, which means we are drafting legislation and some other policy documents and can go to the parliament and lobby them and talk to the government," he said. "We don't have the power of issuing legal acts, the vast majority of the work we do is to talk with the stakeholders on the importance of the issues."

One of the issues Kotetishvili has been discussing is a special school to train public officials. Training and job shadowing, he said, are the keys to creating effective-human resource managers and public servants.

"I think that the first part of the reform should be focused more on the education of the civil servants, on the modern practices of how to run offices, how to do better management in the offices," he said.

"For this reason, educational trainings are required but this is not enough. They need to do lots of job shadowing with their colleagues abroad and it would also be a good idea to bring some really good, experienced experts here so they can talk with each other and look at examples on how to run efficient offices."