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An interview with Josef Postránecký, Deputy Minister for The Civil Service

A series of Czech Leader interviews in cooperation with Czech Leaders Magazine

“The Civil Service Should Serve the Citizens.”

He is called a “Superservant”. Since January 1, 2015 Josef Postránecký has been in charge of more than 65 thousand state administrative workers. This was the result of a new Civil Service law, which was a major step toward a stable and professional civil service. We asked Josef Postránecký about the changes awaiting ordinary civil servants. And what about their managers?

Josef Postránecký, Deputy Minister for The Civil Service

Dear Deputy Minister, what authority do you now have? Some readers may believe that you are going to oversee all servants around the country…

That´s not quite true. The Civil Service law falls within my authority. Part of the law determines the tasks for the State Service Section, which as you probably may know was created instead of the originally planned General Directorate of the State Service at the Ministry of Interior. However, the responsibilities now are similar to those originally planned.

And these responsibilities are?

The preparation of corresponding implementable regulations related to the execution of State Service law; service regulations such as the assurance of competitive tenders; evaluation of services; and other issues covered by the law. I must emphasize that the primary focus of civil service law lies in solving the organizational and personnel issues within the state administration. It does not focus on the actual work of the state administration.

When this task is finished, and all new regulations have been adopted, will your job become calmer?

There will be no calm. The process will of course be continuous, and the next step will be to coordinate activities between the ministries and agencies working in state administration and human resources. The process must be completely integrated, a responsibility which also rests on The State Service Department.

Recently you attended the appointments of the new state secretaries. Have these secretaries met your expectations?

The applicants certainly met my requirements. By law they are achieved servants of the state administration, and have served or are currently serving in high positions. They must hold positions of department directors or higher. Therefore the winners of the tenders are longtime, experienced servants.

What are the main changes awaiting ordinary servants from July1?

For common employees of the state administration, there are practically no changes in responsibilities carried out by offices. The outside environment, however, will change. The law defines many duties for common servants, primarily focused on the efficiency of the state administration, its production and speed. The servants will also have to continuously achieve new professional qualifications. They will be subject to evaluations every year. Not everyone is used to such an approach, but they will have to come to terms with it.

And so a common servant will suffer more stress…

They should organize their work and manage it efficiently. This law also guarantees that if the servant’s work is of good quality, they will have better opportunities. They are not endangered by the fact that some divisions and jobs have been dissolved for various reasons. The law states that there will be no change in the system which determines workloads or positions, unless the law or range of responsibilities are changed. This is an advantage the law brings to the servants. They will not be relocated every year, and so on.

How many people will the new executive state servants actually manage?

The numbers vary. It depends on the managerial level. There are also exceptions due to the position of various types of offices, for example the so called regulation offices.

So, departments or sections are going to come together?

That is happening now, in preparation for the new system. The government approved regulations for the organization of service offices. These regulations define the minimum sizes of departments, divisions, and sections. Many offices had already prepared for this in advance, and those changes already took place at the beginning of this year.

Does this mean a downward trend in the number of managers?

Yes, of those in charge of the units. However, the law allows for deputy managers, which was not common before. They now hold senior positions. Therefore, the number of managers may go up. It makes sense. We know that if a director of a department falls ill, or goes on holiday, and he does not have a regular deputy, the unit´s performance will suffer.

What is the main change awaiting managers?

For the managers, there are more changes. Besides more responsibilities, they will be much busier as well. For example, they will have to evaluate their subordinates every year. They will have to oversee professional training. And of course they will be more involved in creating and maintaining the working conditions of their subordinates. They will not be able to pass on their responsibilities assigned to them by law. This issue was not resolved until now, and so the scope of work for senior officers will be greater. On the other hand, they now have certainty. If they provide good quality work, it will be impossible to remove them without stating a good reason.

The Civil Service law was a result of a political consensus. There were many compromises accepted. Do you think they will become an issue again?

You are speaking of more than 200 articles. Sure it will be useful to amend some parts of the law. However, I cannot anticipate anything. Even the Prime Minister emphasized that the law is new, too new for any amendments. That would seem odd to the servants and the public. Nor is there any need for changes to the law.

When did you first want to be a Deputy for The Civil Service?

I first considered it during the selection for the position of Deputy, in November of last year. For many years, I was responsible for Public Service reform in the Czech Republic.  I was close to the public and civil service. I believed I could use my experience from that reform, as well as my work in the civil service, to take on this challenge as well.

What did the Minister of Interior tell you?

He was positive about my decision to apply for the position. We did not discuss it further.

The Civil Service Law is nominated for the law of the year, as well as caricature of the year. Do you agree with these nominations?

This is not the first time that a brand new law, which has no equivalent in the past, brings various reactions. Some praise it, others criticize. I am not surprised at all. Time will tell whether the law is good or whether it needs an amendment.

There are people saying that it would be better if the servants do not just blindly follow the law.

I think servants should abide by the regulations, to the letter of the law, and should seek solutions that benefit the people who live under these administrative decisions. Keep in mind that not all servants see it this way. It is also possible that in individual cases the law may be too harsh, and the servants´ official decision will be softer. But this must be well justified. If this is done, one of the main tasks of The Civil Service will be accomplished: serving the citizens.

Will you go on holiday this year?

Definitely not before July 1, but we will see about the summer. The minister instructed all deputies to plan their holidays. He wants to have fresh servants to fulfill all of the necessary tasks. I hope to get away for a week or so.

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Source: Czech Leaders Magazine

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