Government changes or changes in heads of departments?

Government changes or changes in heads of departments?
This article has been written for Albanian Free Press newspaper and www.albanianfreepress.al

By Plator Nesturi

Fear has recently spread among public administration. This feeling has not only affected simple specialists, but heads of departments and ministers too. The reason for this relates to the latest incentive of the Prime Minister to conduct an analysis of the work done by the state administration in the past six months, to see what’s being done right and what’s being done wrong with it. This has also led to rumors about government changes and changes in lower levels. But will the Prime Minister be able to launch such a wide scale operation with the aim of improving professionalism among the public administration and within the government or is this merely the next show?

At a time when the situation with the opposition is very aggravated and with the ongoing protests, any change would indicate fear and withdrawal due to the pressure exerted by the opposition. But this is also the only way to show that the majority has the power for self-improvement. During Rama’s five years in power, we have many examples where heads of local governments have survived for as long as the SP has been in power. Not that they have excelled or anything. They have merely survived as half forgotten, half politicized, pretending to act professionally.

It’s a well known fact that this administration should have long been transformed. But this process has always been done in the wrong way. Thus, even if the prime Minister is looking to get into this once again, will he do the same mistakes as before? It’s very likely.

Changes in the administration seem to be the only thing which could have a quick effect. Legal reforms are not easy to be made, but changes in the public administration are always a good pawn to have, With 74 seats and 4 extra votes offered by other parties in parliament, the current majority does not have the necessary votes to amend laws. However, the laws which required 2/3 of the votes, such as the judicial reform affecting articles of the Constitution, were voted in the previous mandate. Thus, except the new electoral reform, which would require the opposition’s votes, it looks like the next political battles do not include major reforms and laws. The only problem with the debates will relate to the implementation of the current laws by Rama’s government and the implementation of the reforms which have already been passed.

Public administration is once again at the focus of Rama 2 government. It’s not a political rotation which is often associated with changes of militants occupying posts in the administration. The SP was and continues to be in power, although it has left its former ally, SMI, out of it. But there’s no need for a special law about what they are planning to do in the public administration, as it was the case four years ago when the statute of civil servants was voted. This bill was approved at the end of May prior to the election campaign by both sides, being one of the bills recommended by the European Commission.

If we recall the debate which took place four years ago, the implementation of the law was postponed by the newly elected government of Prime Minister Rama. The opposition immediately accused Rama of trying to cleanse the administration, which would be protected by the law in question. The majority gave technical reasons for this, but it did claim that the administration was filled with party militants, incompetent and corrupt, which meant that it would undergo a deep reform. The law was implemented six months later through a normative act and the reform in the administration took place, as it often happens at the start of each governing term.

The truth is that every time there’s rotation of power, the administration is the first victim. Militants and party supporters are made part of it and this damages professionalism. Public administration has traditionally been the first victim of government changes in Albania. Removal by lists, “merging” of institutions and suspensions without applying any particular criteria, have been some of the best known forms of layoffs, calling them “reform”. In reality, the “changes” in the administration have been made with the single purpose of employing the militants of the party that won the elections and this damages professionalism. Therefore, changes may be necessary, but the problem relates to the way the new employees will be selected. Will they be selected based on the law and abilities or will militants and close collaborators of the party be rewarded once again?

We don’t have a rotation of power, but the new system of the administration based on a new division of ministries, merging of institutions based on regions and not municipalities, will significantly reduce the size of the administration. According to Prime Minister Rama, the administration will be reduced in size, but the aim is to boost efficiency by having more professionals as part of it. Nevertheless, the administration is in panic, because it is not yet known how will its screening take place and what criteria will be applied for it. Sources reveal that cuts may be up to 25% and this is no small figure for a country such as Albania. In this case, the opposition and SMI in particular, will consider the new changes in the administration as a politically motivated “massacre”. Therefore, each reform that takes place must be transparent.

The expectation of the public opinion that voted the new majority is for the public administration to see positive changes, therefore the way the replacements will take place is being closely scrutinized. If a part of the administration is incompetent and politicized, as the SP claims and as it’s widely known, then the replacements must aim the opposite of this model. Therefore, the reform in the administration must be seen as an opportunity for changes that will serve not only electoral promises and future campaigns, but they will also serve to strengthen the state.

Note: The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy

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