15.04.2022, 17:22
A+ Analytics

Development of public administration in Kazakhstan: From the Soviet "nomenclature" to modern meritocracy

The Decree of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan "On measures to de-bureaucratize the activities of the state apparatus" was published on April 13, 2022 and became the next stage of administrative reform in Kazakhstan.

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The document did not receive wide discussion in the scientific community and civil society for objective reasons, perhaps the same ones that led people to a peaceful rally in January 2022. The public, having witnessed attempts at various administrative reforms in previous decades, may have grown weary of promises that "it will definitely work this time." After all, this time the decree of President K. Tokayev voiced all the same goals: the fight against bureaucracy, the low efficiency of the state apparatus, the digitalization of the work of officials.

It is known that during the 30 years of independent history of Kazakhstan there were several stages of attempts to form and eventually create an effective, efficient and effective bureaucracy. Let's look at these steps.

The first stage of administrative reform took place in the early 1990s. This stage is characterized by the fact that the reforms were carried out in the traditions of the Soviet past with the typical appointments of officials for this past without competition, without the appropriate education, but loyal to the top leadership. However, even then, in 1995, the Decree "On the Civil Service" promised the creation of a modern, efficient system of civil service in Kazakhstan.

The second stage of administrative reforms took place in 1998-2002 and led to the strengthening of the power of the President in the process of appointing top officials of the state apparatus. Established in 1998, the Agency for Civil Service Affairs began to report directly to the President. The justification for such a strengthening of the role of the President was the fight against corruption. The new Law "On Public Service" of 1999 approved the competitive selection of civil servants, which, however, was controlled by the officials themselves, without the involvement of outside observers, experts, parties, NGOs. Another result of these reforms was the direct appointment by the President of various kinds of senior political officials to senior positions in agreement with the deputies of Parliament, again represented by pro-government parties and movements. The advertised publicity and openness of the competitive selection of officials were mainly limited to the publication of advertisements in the media.

The third stage of administrative reforms in 2003-2009 showed signs of stagnation, as a result of these reforms, controversial mechanisms have been put in place. As a measure to prevent corruption, a mechanism was introduced for the mandatory rotation of officials from the center to the regions and back, which led to the "roaming" of officials along with leaders. The Commission for the Selection of Candidates for the Personnel Reserve and the Agency for Civil Service Affairs began to deal with the selection of candidates for positions. The lack of direct election by the population and consideration of public opinion has led to an increase in "paper" reporting.

Obviously, administrative reforms take time and pilot experiments. But one cannot fail to note the fact that the promise of the election of akims was already announced in the Message of 2000, the formation of "electronic government" in 2004, and in 2005 a promise was declared not to allow officials to have their own business and lobby for the interests of companies.

The Decree of 2022, as a promise of the Head of State to fight bureaucracy, low efficiency and costly work of officials, still contains some innovations and differences from the previous stages of the reform, which was carried out for 30 years. In the current decree, among the most serious innovations, a number of important points can be distinguished:
•    specifics regarding the use of data already known and available to officials. This was expressed in the ban on “government bodies to request and transfer information available in the state information and analytical system “Smart Data Ukimet”, as well as to request them several times, thus creating red tape. This will finally lead to the ability to receive all the necessary up-to-date data about the state body, use the services from its official web page;
•    unequivocal digitalization and institutionalization of the "E-Otinish" system, as a "one-stop shop" for receiving all types of applications from individuals and legal entities;
•    constant openness in the form of "an online resource for collecting proposals for debureaucratization and improving the efficiency of state bodies." A parallel online body for assessing the opinions and sentiments of the population, business, may be connected to social networks and, finally, it will be possible to vote online, both on a specific decision of officials and on the assessment of the personal work of each employee;
•    strengthening of trust and mutual responsibility of current officials in the form of empowering "deputies of the first heads of state bodies with the right to agree on draft regulatory legal acts". This can help solve the problem of "inoperability" of departments, offices during the change of leaders and the traditional "chair fall" in Kazakhstan.

The most important innovation and distinctive feature of the current attempt to carry out administrative reform is not the introduction of a new system for evaluating the performance of officials or a new decision-making mechanism, but the personality of President K. Tokayev himself. No matter how individual points or an article of the Decree are highlighted, President K. Tokayev is of decisive importance as the main resource of this document. It is not surprising that all political parties and movements appeal to the President, evaluating the results of all the ongoing reforms in Kazakhstan. The danger and expectedly low effect of such Decrees and instructions of the President of the country are also recognized by the political parties of Kazakhstan. 

Thus, the Ak Zhol party, in its request addressed to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan, directly points to the modern facts of bureaucracy that have already taken place during the presidency of K. Tokayev, and proposes to “exclude opportunities for distortions and “free” interpretation by officials through the introduction of direct and unambiguous norms” into the laws of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The deputies of the Majilis of the Parliament directly accuse the officials of the fact that instead of protecting the rights of citizens, one government department sends another department for answers, the deputies said that the officials “started to play bureaucracy and “kicked off” our appeal.”

In the development and strengthening of the statehood of Kazakhstan, debureaucratization is not the only goal and decisive mechanism. Debureaucratization can only be achieved in conjunction with other tasks to strengthen the courts, fight corruption, digitalize the civil service, and increase the authority of officials and their salaries. The January events of 2022 showed the vital need of the people of Kazakhstan to change the current situation in the country, including in the public administration system. It is objectively difficult to radically change what has been built and formed over decades in the shortest possible time. But success in the fight against bureaucracy is possible, and can be an important element in the task of restoring public confidence in officials.

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