Amendments to civil service law increase president’s powers to appoint regional governors

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Ukraine’s parliament on Nov. 9 approved amendments to certain laws on the civil service that will allow Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko to appoint and dismiss oblast governors.

The president will also be able to hire and fire deputy oblast governors. The amendments also do away with the competitive selection process that was previously introduced for hiring civil servants.

Some 234 lawmakers backed the bill.

For years, Ukraine’s civil service has acted as a brake on reform in many spheres of the country’s governance, and the civil service law itself has been long in coming. However, in 2016, a new law on the civil service came into force and stipulated a change in hiring and firing procedures.

The law established an open competition process for government jobs to prevent officials from handing out positions as rewards to their political allies.

The 2016 law stipulated that top officials would be selected by the Civil Service’s High Commission, an independent body. The commission was to be staffed by representatives of the Presidential Administration, the parliament, and the government, as well as at least three people from civil society.

The law also limited the involvement of state officials in politics. Civil servants were placed in three categories according to their positions (under the old law there were seven categories). State employees in the A category – state secretaries and their deputies, the heads of executive government bodies and regional governors – were not allowed to be members of political parties. Those in the B and C categories – the deputy heads of the regional administrations, consultants, advisers and experts – were not permitted to hold leading positions in political parties.

The new amendments to the law canceled these restrictions. The heads of central executive bodies and their deputies will no longer be civil servants and can become members of political parties.

Critics of the law saw the move as a way to boost President Poroshenko’s chances at the ballot box.

Alyona Shkrum, a lawmaker from the Batkivshchyna faction in parliament and the head of parliament’s Civil Service Subcommittee, which worked on a bill, wrote on Nov. 9 that the new amendments “put the clock back to four years ago, when the heads of local state administrations were the puppets of the president and had to provide votes during elections.”

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