Anyone who has had to wait in line for hours in public offices to sort out things like ID cards and tax returns could be forgiven for thinking that the Czech civil service is not exactly a well oiled machine. This perception has now been borne out by a recent survey, which has found that Czech public administrators are not as professional or motivated as their EU counterparts.
A recent survey by the Czech Academy of Sciences based on interviews with representatives of Czech and other European public administrations has found some marked differences between the manner in which the civil service operates here in comparison with other EU countries. Marek Skovajsa, one of the compilers of the report, says that European public administrations have a more proactive approach:
"One of the main and most interesting findings was that whereas the European public administration is used to working efficiently and confronting problems as they arise, many Czech officials try to avoid a problem-solution approach. What they prefer to do is impute guilt on a third party. Of course, the resolution of problems is delayed as a result and the whole image one gets from the workings of such an institution is worse than it would be otherwise."
The survey also found that the Czech Republic's civil service is also hampered by rigid hierarchical structures, which meant that Czech civil servants don't display as much initiative as their EU counterparts:
"The origins of this difference might lie in the historical past, because of course civil servants in the communist civil service could hardly be expected to display a high level of initiative. The system probably supported passivity and 40 years of communism is a long period for people to acquire certain habits and get used to them."
This passivity is also exacerbated by a lack of motivation. Many of the survey's respondents attributed this to low wages here, which some EU civil servants described as "scandalous". Although Mr Skovajsa points out that civil servants' salaries had to be considered in the overall context of the Czech labour market, wage levels were still low enough to impede greater efficiency and professionalism in Czech public administration. It also makes Czech civil servants more vulnerable to corruption and bribes, although Mr Skovajsa is quick to stress that dishonesty in the Czech civil service is also fostered by a general climate of permissiveness, which did not exist in many EU countries. Mr Skovajsa says that this might be due to the social upheaval of the last 14 years, which meant that a sense of stability or adherence to social norms was now lacking in Czech society.
Although Czech public administration will be expected to adapt to EU standards with accession, Mr Skovajsa feels that the civil-service culture that exists here is so engrained it will take far longer for things to change than many people expect:
"In the case of public administrations in the acceding countries, more emphasis is put on how they will adapt to the standards of the EU, but this does not mean that they won't preserve their own type of operation or style of work. These will remain, and I think that they will remain for a long time"
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