European Interest

Corruption watchdog checks Czech civil service

Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 2.5
Bridges over the River Vltava, Prague, Czech Republic.

A new report by anti-corruption group Transparency International has warned against the Czech government’s moves to lay off top-level civil servants and members of the state. The group says the controversial sackings are a threat to what should be the country’s non-political administration.

As reported by Radio Praha online, the Czech Republic was the last EU member state to push through new rules aimed at creating an independent civil service and state administration.

According to the Czech branch of Transparency International, the civil service law is not working well and this has been highlighted by actions of the current government. Last December, the government announced what were described as fairly minor changes organisation of central government with the closure of some departments and a slashing of some 20 top posts.

“TI looked at the numbers and found that there were at least twice as many more senior positions at the government and agencies and ministries that were replaced,” said Transparency International’s director David Ondráčka. “Plus there are quite senior changes and shifts in the security forces and state owned enterprises. So if you take it altogether, we see clear purges at the senior level of public administration and government in the Czech Republic and it’s being done by a government that does not have a vote of confidence.”

According to Ondráčka, more changes are promised by some ministers and are likely as new government ministers are installed in a possible new government. He argues that the experience in recent months has added to the weight of evidence that the Czech Civil Service law is not working in practice.

“This law is not working well and there are already attempts to amend the law. I believe this should be done very carefully with quite a broad expert debate because you are actually changing the whole machinery of the public sector and some quick fixes do not usually do much good,” he said.

Ondráčka warns the Czech Republic is at a crossroads as regards how its state administration shapes up in the future.

“Generally, I think if you look at it from the Big Brother context, we have to make a clear decision whether we come back to the era where each new government purged all the senior positions and brought in their own staff or administration, which in my view was very, very inefficient,” he said. “Or we come back to more European standards where public administration is impartial, professional, and stable and the political governments are just making the priorities what to do and the administration delivers.”

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