Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Politics

Falling between Two Stools - the Case of the Lithuanian Civil Servant Reform of 2013

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Politics

Falling between Two Stools - the Case of the Lithuanian Civil Servant Reform of 2013

Article excerpt

I Introduction

Corruption still thrives at all levels and sectors of the Lithuanian society.2 This is not to argue that investments in anti-corruption legislation, committees, and campaigns (see, e.g., Johannsen and Pedersen 2011) have been fruitless, although both Schmidt (2007) and Batory (2012) stress the meagre results. However, it underscores that once ingrained in society; corruption is very difficult to root out (Uslaner 2008). Furthermore, simultaneous efforts at capacity building both before and after EU accession (Verheijen 2007), on the one hand, appear to have resulted in an improved civil service but, on the other hand, not in reducing the core of corruption. The civil servants themselves recognize the problem and recommend further administrative reforms (Johannsen and Pedersen 2012).

Corruption is associated with political favouritism or, in other terms, patronage and is not unique to the Lithuanian public administration. As Bearfield (2009) has observed, political appointments are based on exchange of favours and patronage and a general risk in all administrations where the government can replace administrative personnel at their whim, either to secure loyalty or in need to secure political support during election times through co-optation and spoils. Since political favouritism is at odds with a professional and meritocratic civil service, it is not surprising that a Human Resource Management (HRM) reform has been on the agenda in most Central and East European countries (CEECs) since the beginning of the 1990s. The agenda has emphasized that increased professionalization, understood as both expertise and meritocratization, and de-politicization are not only part of the administrative acquis communautaire but the bedrock of modern public administration (Nunberg 2000; SIGMA 1999). Furthermore, several insightful analyses of developments in post-communist administrations have stressed that HRM reforms, consistent with a Weberian model, should be in place before experimenting with other managerial approaches such as those advocated in new public management (Verheijen and Coombes 1998; Drechsler 2005, 96; Meyer-Sahling 2011, 240).

In Lithuania, below average administrative capacity (Nakrosis 2001; Pedersen and Johannsen 2004), strong interests from ministers to personally appoint their own civil servants (Johannsen 2003) and persistent corruption (Johannsen and Pedersen 2008; Johannsen and Pedersen 2011) have created cross-pressure for reform. However, following several incremental steps, the HRM reforms culminated with the Department of Civil Service taking over the responsibility for the pre-selection of all civil service personnel in 2013. With this step, Lithuania strengthens the aspects of a unified civil service model, thus, departing from the previous mixed model where each department in practice set its own criteria for recruitment Acknowledging that the temptation to recruit public personnel according to personal or political closeness is highly context sensitive, Sundell (2014) argues that if the risk for patronage is high, a regulated recruitment system may be preferred while private-style practices can be more successful if patronage is less prevalent Thus, the questions asked here are how the 2013 HRM reform in Lithuania fits into the context of corruption in the Lithuanian society, and second, if the political context leading to the reform may explain if and how the reform addresses the problems of corruption and favouritism at stake.

Section two outlines the logic of departmentalization versus a unified civil service with respect to the likely outcome of the different approaches in terms of the risk of corruption and favouritism. Section three; outline the pre-2013 practices in Lithuanian civil service recruitment, followed by section four, which discusses the character of corruption and favouritism in a Lithuanian context. In the concluding section, we demonstrate how the political background has placed the reform between two stools, strengthening examinations at the entry level while keeping flexibility in the selection phase. …

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