Civil servants are vitally important to any nation, whether developing or more established. The dedicated men and women who serve as liaisons between a government’s laws and services and the public those laws are meant to serve are key to the success of any state.
Whether at the local or national level, public servants help address and find solutions to public, social and economic challenges, as well as build consensus and ensure inclusion of all members of society in a government’s operation.
It is in that spirit that over the last 15 years Kazakhstan has adopted measures to institutionalise the 1995 Presidential Decree on State Service that set the framework for civil service in Kazakhstan, as well as established the legal status of civil servants and their social protection. Another step in that direction was the approval in 1997 of Kazakhstan Strategy 2030, which prioritised the establishment of a “Professional Government” in order to operate efficiently in a market economy and fulfil national objectives and priorities.
Later in 1998, the Civil Service Agency (CSA) was established. The task of the CSA was to pursue the strategic objectives of the country while enhancing the civil service management system and improving the legal framework for the professional civil service.
More recently and in line with the concept approved by Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev in July 2011, a new model of the Kazakhstan civil service has been developed that includes the fundamental principles of accountability to the public, transparency and meritocracy (recognition of an individual’s merits and performance when entering the civil service and for promotion).
The required legislative and regulatory framework of that July 2011 concept is being elaborated with fundamental change in the Law on Civil Service. Twelve presidential decrees and a number of regulatory acts of the Civil Service Association have also come into force to improve civil service.
Other measures include the establishment of an institute of observers through what is known as the Public Council of the Civil Service Agency that will observe the competition practices of state body competition committees and report their findings to a state body which regulates the management of public institutions. The practice was established by the CSA Chairman in March and members of the media, nongovernmental organizations and representatives from other organizations may become observers.
Citizens wishing to become public servants can also take a test at any time in person at the appropriate organization within that organization’s normal competitive processes. When a person passes that test, they are then allowed to participate in that organization’s competitive selection process. Those processes have also been streamlined resulting in a threefold decrease in the amount of time state bodies spend on employee selection since the introduction of such a system.
Measures have also been taken to reduce the amount of personnel that are moved or replaced as a result of a change in the top executive management of a government body. There are exceptions, such as appointments by the president, but all other appointments must be made on a competitive basis.
In 2012, an average 3,500 transfers took place within state bodies per quarter. In the second quarter of 2013 after amendments were introduced to the law, transfers were reduced by more than 50 times and the competition for positions within state bodies increased from 4.7 persons for each position to 8.5 persons for each position—almost twofold.
Public organizations are also now required to first consider their own pool of candidates for advancement before looking outside their organizations to fill positions.
In line with the new amendments to the Law on Civil Service, every civil servant’s efficiency and quality of work will be assessed based on one-year work period results. The results will be the basis for decisions concerning bonuses, incentives, training and career planning.
Administrative civil servants who receive a negative performance assessment resulting from the examination of three annual performance assessments will be subject to a personal appraisal (attestation). Those personal appraisals will then be used in determining an employee’s suitability for their position.
To help ensure employees are suitable for advancement, however, an institute of mentors has been established requiring government bodies to assign their most experienced professionals as mentors to less experienced civil servants.
For the first time ever, civil servants also have the opportunity for short-term placements in other state bodies, national companies and foreign and international organizations to gain professional knowledge and experience beyond their permanent place of work.
A mark of distinction, “Uzdik memlekettik qyzmetshi” (Kazakh for the Best Civil Servant), has also been introduced as a non-monetary incentive for professional development. It will be awarded to civil servants with at least 15 years of service that have made significant contributions to civil service development.
An automated personnel management system “e-Kyzmet’ is also being developed to allow the online transfer of human resources information about civil servants in order to increase the efficiency of human resource management services.
A special designation for top-performing civil servants, known as Corps А, has also been established to help identify and promote the most qualified and best performing civil servants. Those wishing to be included in the Corps A pool for consideration for high level positions must pass a rigorous examination and interview process. Special training courses, performance assessments and a career planning institute are also envisioned for the ongoing professionalization of Corps A public servants. Corps A employees are awarded four-year employment contracts and their performance is assessed annually. Those assessments form the basis of decisions regarding the training, promotion and placement of Corps A employees.
Over the 20 years since Kazakhstan gained independence, many civil servant ethics and anticorruption measures have been enshrined in law. Those measures have been developed not only by the Kazakhstan government, but also with the help of the European Union through its delegation in the country. The EU’s primary contribution has been to help Kazakhstan establish a modern and efficient public sector to help achieve the long-term development goals of the country.
The EU has done this by supporting major, and often heavily funded, projects. EU support is provided through a number of projects, such as the Regional Development Project and The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Civil Service Reform project.
However, the main instrument of EU support to Kazakhstan’s civil service reform efforts is provided through the Civil Service Reform and Modernisation of the Government of Kazakhstan (CSR) project. The CSR project is a four-year project fully financed by the EU benefiting the Civil Service Agency of Kazakhstan, the National Centre for Civil Service Personnel Management JSC (PMC) and the Academy of Public Administration to the President of Kazakhstan (APA).
The aim of the project is to develop the institutional capacities and human resources potential of the ACSA, SMC and APA, in order to carry out an effective implementation of the Concept on a New Civil Service Model and to successfully implement many of the civil service reforms mentioned above.
Through an ongoing series of state measures, and with the help of the European Union, Kazakhstan continues to be actively engaged in civil service reform.
The author is Team Leader of the project “Civil Service Reform and Modernisation of the Government of Kazakhstan”(CSR).