Selection of Elite Government Managers Corps Continues

ASTANA – In accordance with Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s state-of-the-nation address Strategy Kazakhstan 2050, a new class of professional managers will be formed to implement certain state policies. The selection process to name these managers, who will be collectively known as Corps A, has already begun.

According to the president’s order, the selection process must be completed by July 1, 2013. Corps A will include executive secretaries of central state bodies, chairpersons of committees, heads of regional governors’ (akims) administrations, mayors of cities and districts and other senior officials.

Earlier at the sitting of the National Commission for Human Resources Policy under the office of the president, established by presidential decree in order to form the management of civil servants, a number of internal documents was adopted, including a working plan and the candidates’ selection procedure. In addition, the National Commission for Human Resources Policy was instructed to publish an announcement concerning the selection in the media. The commission is led by the head of the Presidential Administration, former Prime Minister Karim Massinov.

The procedure for the selection of candidates includes several stages. The first stage was the publication of an announcement on the selection. The second stage was the acceptance of candidates’ documents. The next step was a two-day testing process by the Agency for Civil Service for candidates held May 15 through May 27. The final step will be interviews to be held June 4 by the National Commission for Human Resources Policy.

During the first day of testing, candidates were required to pass a law test. Applicants were required to give at least seven correct answers out of 10 questions. On the same day, candidates also took a test dealing with personnel and managerial skills involving ethics, communicativeness, as well as views on quality and competition. Candidates who passed those two tests were subjected to two more tests on the second day. The first test on the second day was a nonverbal logic test and the second exam tested the candidates’ knowledge of the state language under the KAZTEST programme.

In accordance with the rules of the selection process, the candidates’ documents were accepted from April 3 to May 3. In total, 2,024 candidates submitted applications. Those included:

• 511 public servants whose positions are already considered to be at Corps A levels. (220 candidates from central government bodies and 291 from the local executive bodies)

• 1,066 other public servants;

• 447 candidates who are not public servants;

Fourteen percent of the applicants were women. A total of 1,851 candidates were selected for testing.

A total of 1,787 Corps A candidates showed up and went through the testing process. Those included:

• 499 public servants already at a level considered to be equal to Corps A;

• 931 other public servants;

• 357 candidates who are not public servants.

Thus, 72 percent of the tested candidates are not currently public servants at the Corps A level. Exactly 1,124 candidates (62.9 percent) passed the tests and 663 (37.1 percent) candidates failed. Fifteen candidates scored 100 out of 100. The law exam included numerous questions dealing with the Kazakhstan Constitution, and nine laws. Knowledge of the law is a direct duty of public servants. The public servants of the Corps A, including akims, must ensure an accurate and appropriate implementation of these laws.

Of the 511 candidates who currently hold positions considered to be at a Corps A level, 155, or 30 percent, did not pass the tests. Those public servants who currently hold Corps A level positions, but who failed the tests, were not admitted to the next stage of the selection process and will have to vacate their positions no later than September 26, when their current contracts expire.

The open selection process of personnel to Corps A helped the government discover talented, potential new government officials.

Only 23 percent of the candidates who passed the tests and were admitted to the interview stage currently hold Corps A level positions. The other 77 percent are employees of regional executive bodies, local self-governance bodies and people who are not civil servants.

Candidates who have passed all of the tests will be first interviewed by regional human resources commission officials. Those officials will then present their recommendations for Corps A members to the national commission. The national commission will then do its final interviews beginning on June 4.

Some Kazakh political analysts have questioned the correctness of the selection process.

Public figure Galym Baituk has told local media he believes that the content of the test tasks should be reviewed. However, he added, such testing was necessary, and he is confident that some kind of progress will be made within the civil service.

“A percentage of people appointed to high positions have come from the outside due to their relationships and connections. Some people have become akims and senior officials of ministries,” Baituk said. Therefore, such ‘housecleaning’ will allow the government to keep qualified public servants. However, he emphasized that the failure of some high level officials to pass the test indicates that the tests need to be refined.

He believes that for many officials who have not taken examinations for decades, the current test for admission to Corps A is more difficult in terms of stress than the common national exam for students.

He is also concerned about where the 30 percent of people who did not pass the tests will be employed and in which sector they will be able to use their knowledge. “This is a great cataclysm and important national issue. They are left behind. They can go into business and we may lose talented leaders,” Baituk said. But at the same time, he believes that the programme is appropriate for the majority of candidates. He also believes all civil servants should undergo a lie detector test.

President of the Civil Alliance of Kazakhstan Nurlan Yerimbetov believes that the testing does not fully assess the Corps A candidates’ knowledge. Yerimbetov notes that governors should be evaluated by the public and other government officials. “Often it doesn’t matter if (candidate) knows English or has computer skills. It is important that he is able to hold negotiations with people, to arrange with builders, to keep the streets clean, build hospitals and schools,” he said. Yerimbetov believes that the current testing process is not the best for choosing Corps A managers.

He would prefer the test be considered a first step to be followed by public debate and discussion relating to potential candidates.

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