The Prime Minister’s, Alexis Tsipras’, speech in the National School of Public Administration and Local Government, as part of the two-day conference “Public Administration, Democratic Governance and Social Solidarity” organised for its 30 years of function:
Mrs President, ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great honour and joy, at the same time, to address today this salute for the 30th anniversary of the National School of Public Administration and Local Government. And I would say that it is an honour and joy, but also a happy coincidence, as this event coincides with the launch of a major initiative reform undertaken by the government in order to implement an announcement that the Greek people, the citizens, but also the public administration’s officers have heard many times being announced, but unfortunately never being implemented. It is about a substantial reform, as far as its structure, its merit-based public administration is concerned, but also as far as the emergence of executives is concerned.
So, before I start, I want to address my salute particularly to the National School of Public Administration and Local Government, as I remember that this is not the first time that I come here to this School. I have visited it as the leader of the Opposition party, and previously as President of a parliament’s party, who had then little chances to come to power, if you remember. Then, it was easy for somebody to talk with the vision of a government that will be cut off from this clientelistic state, which unfortunately was staffed in recent years, a clientelistic state that has deep roots in the early years of the establishment of the Greek state, but certainly staffed, strengthened, deepened by the dictatorship and afterwards. And then it was stated that it is easy for somebody to say so, when he is away from the power, when he has no expectations of being in power, but when he eventually is in power, it is difficult, because he wants to control the administration.
When I came to this School, as the leader of the Opposition party, with expectations of power, I have said that we are the only ones who can make a breakthrough in the public service. Why? Because, quite simply, we have no commitments. These are not enough, after all, the positions are so many and we do not have so many people to place in these positions. Making a joke, then, I said a great truth, because in order for someone to make a breakthrough, he should rather think in a different way, with a different mentality. We have to distance ourselves from the mainstream mentality, the mentality which was unfortunately being followed by governments in the recent years, which were elected with the vision of either the modernisation or the reinvention of the state, but continued either by fear or insecurity the same logic of distribution of power.
So I want to say that from the first moment of the function of the National School of Public Administration and Local Government, we were the ones – and I personally – who felt that this School represents a breakthrough. And indeed, today, its 30 years of function coincides with the expressed will, but also the expressed recognition of the vast majority of the Greek society for a breakthrough in the public administration.
I am very happy to be here today. I think that the public administration is the sick man of the country and we must collectively find a way to cure this patient, by eliminating its diseases. But in order to eliminate them, we must have an aim, a plan and a vision.
A lot of discussion is lately taking place about the so-called “de-politicisation” of the public administration. I would like to say that this is a wrong word. What we really need is ‘de-partisanation’. It’s about putting an end to a system which just services somebody’s own interests, clientelistic relations and corruption. However, the public administration must be politicised in the sense of having a vision, a goal, social orientation and social consciousness. And so, its officers. I would say, then, that the vision and the goal should be ‘de-partisanation’, and not de-politicisation.
The public administration must provide high quality services to the citizens, the members of society, must ensure social cohesion and promote social solidarity. A public administration without aim and goal orientation, moving to nowhere, is in the air.
And I want to say that the National School of Public Administration and Local Government had from its beginning, orientation, political orientation in the meaning that I mentioned before. These objectives, which I mentioned earlier and their accomplishment were associated with the development of human resources in the public administration because the administration is before all, let’s don’t forget this, the people who compose it, its officers, all those who support the functioning of its structures and all those who are responsible to implement the policies, which, certainly, each elected government has shaped, whilst ensuring, at the same time, the continuity of the public services and the respect to all citizens’ rights.
And the National School was designed to contribute to the formation of employees, who can serve these goals. Firstly through education, the National School of Public Administration, was able to train officers to rally their colleagues, to coordinate their efforts and to contribute substantially to the effective function of the departments, in such a way that the accomplishment of a goal, would not just represent a simple satisfaction of an index, but the implementation of socially beneficial policies.
And I think at this point, I will seize the opportunity, from this podium, to pay tribute to the first Director of the National School, Kosmas Psychopedis, whose work sought to reveal that social relations and state institutions incorporate often authoritarian and unjust conditions. And until its early death, he was exploring a subversion to the above reality.
We should, then, follow Kosmas Psychopedis’ views, so the public administration and particularly the National School of public administration, won’t turn to be a nursery of officers, with an elite mentality, cut off from their other colleagues, but also from the community, but should have and should acquire a mentality of civil servants in the service of the society and the public interest.
But it is not only the National School, but also the Institute of Education, which aims to enhance the knowledge and skills of all employees. And this – if you agree – is nowadays more necessary than ever, as the public administration faces increasingly complicated problems that only well-trained and educated staff with social consciousness, however, is able to solve and overcome.
Apart from education, within the aims and purposes of the National School of Public Administration and Local Government, it is the study of the problems the public sector is facing, the diagnosis of the socio-political causes and the planning to solve them.
In ESDDA’s mission must be, therefore, included the role of scientific advisor for the public administration, which, despite its legislative consolidation, it unfortunately remains too weak.
And it is the current government, which practically recognizes this role in order to utilise the ESDDA, with the adequate conditions and the adequate way.
Because our will and our vision is to create big, progressive and democratic reforming breakthroughs. Democratic breakthroughs of radical modernisation –I would say- in the field of the public administration. Breakthroughs that have been delayed for long, although allow me to say that they have been delayed because of specific reasons and not accidentally. Because, for decades, public administration in our country has been used as protectorate, but also as a tool of procreation of the parties’ powers. Because the logic of clientelism, of the parties’ settlements and the logic of corruption and bribe, have dominated. Because the audit authorities have been left alone in their fate. Because every time the anti- reform and not the reform has been called administrative reform, the fall of the state by our “own children”, i.e. the ‘’children’’ of each government.
And the responsibilities, obviously, lay to those who governed. The two parties that governed either individually or in coalition, during the last years. And they formed that political clientelistic system of corruption, of the political domination of the parties and the dynasties, which, unfortunately, characterize third countries and not a developed country of the European Union, of the Eurozone in particular, the centre of Europe.
But the time has come in order to put an end in this kind of humiliation. The time has come for the big democratic and progressive reform in public administration, far from populism that brings more bargain to the suffering of the Greek people and its economy, especially during the last years of the crisis in the public sector and to the civil servants as a whole, accusing and targeting them. I shall remind you, at this point, that during the last years, a significant effort of disgrace of the public administration and its employees has taken place, in our country, from the same powers and its political staff which had dominated, 40 years now, in building that clientelistic and partisan system. And today, some of them, with audacity, criticize the institutions, the circumstances and the personalities whom they created, they raised, magnified and covered. And instead of handling or paying attention to the real problems, to the so-called ‘rousfeti’- a leftover maybe of the period of the Ottoman empire- to the corruption problem, to the chaotic regulations, to the collapse of the audit authorities and to its under-staffing, instead, therefore, of paying attention to all of the above and finding solutions, ideas and ways of solving them, the easy solution is to accuse the public sector and its staff as a whole.
Be careful though, not against the elite of the civil servants whom they themselves created, in most cases by the time they left from their ministerial posts and whom they continue to protect as an immovable system of dark οr parallel power, not against them, but with the public employees as a whole. Maybe that sells. It is not easy to find scapegoats. It is the easiest way of avoiding to confront the real problems, the political and economic corruption of power, which, like a vice, suffocates the productive powers of this country and strangles everything productive that appears, either in the public or the private sector, avoiding to confront the problem of the excessive regulation, of the bad regulation, of the time- consuming procedures, that cause discomfort to the citizens, the bureaucracies. And all of these, let’s do not hide ourselves before our finger, are not simple carelessness or symptoms of managerial inability, the excessive and bad regulation, the long procedures and the parallel overlapping of powers, form a technological power of the elite, in order for this system of corruption and clientism to flourish.
Let me, at this point, to remind you that the governments, after the dictatorship, have created this public sector, which today we urge, finally, to change, while the moment that they were creating a bigger bureaucratic state, a bigger clientelistic and ineffective state, they themselves were also debating about the need of modernization and reinvention of the state.
Let me not avoid the temptation. Nowadays, many characterize the new- elected leader of New Democracy as the biggest modernist and reformist person, but couple of months ago, during the government of Mr. Samaras, he was running the Ministry of Public Administrative Reform, which owns this title without having made any reforms. During his office, as a member of the government of Mr. Samaras, he was the most faithful follower of the worst narratives of the clientelistic state. He was the one who, with one provision, seized all the Heads of the Public Administration departments, in order to appoint later- while it was obvious that we were moving towards a political change, with procedures, obviously not transparent, not open and not objective –which is crucial- those chosen by himself. Everyone is being judged by his own actions and not by his words and we ourselves are going to be judged by our actions at the end of our office, if we have managed to change some things in this greatly suffered country. And besides the crisis, to manage to move forward, at least in fields that we can make institutional changes. Which requires the confrontation of our own internal clashes, mentalities and functions. Internal overcomes are needed. But, as I was saying earlier, everyone is being judged by their own actions and the actions of the previous governments are very concrete.
I mentioned earlier the layoffs of the Heads of the Public Administration departments, and the logic of direct assignment. The previous government of the Ministry of the Public Administrative Reform, i.e. Mr. Mitsotakis, did not hesitate to downgrade the hidden General Secretaries into simple civil servants, in order to upgrade his own ones. And of course, I refer to that period when we had a coalition government, which has officially, and with written documents as well – we do not refer to the political side-line philosophies and criticism- adopted the 4-2-1 system, for the distribution of powers, and the seizure of the state and of the public administration. 4 for the first party, 2 for the second one and the third referred to the sharing. And today, they are the same people who praise for things that have created institutional gaps and dysfunctions, like, for example, the incredible careless work in the organisation chart of the ministries, which have only legitimated and supported the organizational chaos of Public Administration. They are the same people who have not hesitated to name the layoffs as administrative reforms at that time, in excellent cooperation with the most reactive cycles of the creditors. They are the same people who created a system of evaluation which consisted of obligatory negative evaluation for a percentage of employees of each directorate, violating every sense of scientific logic. And of course, this was convenient for them, as the clientelistic logic and mentality could not work rather for the staffing, regarding the financial restrictions, but for their permanence, while they were introducing the possibility of the layoff, the ‘rousfeti’ was this permanence and the upgrading to higher level posts. And those who could not use their ‘rousfeti’, they would be sucked. A punishing system, with the obvious aim to create obedient public employees at the services of their superiors.
Ladies and gentlemen, according to these mentalities and ideas, we are determined to draw a different line and to put an end to this miserable profile of the Public Administration.
Yesterday, the ministerial meeting has passed the draft bill – which represents the milestone of the Public Administration. A bill which aims to change totally the structure and the procedures of the Public Administration, leaving behind this disgrace of partisanation, the disgrace and the humiliation of the old, bankrupted political system, which has, unfortunately, created an alike state. With the above bill, the National Record of the Public Administration Officers is formed, the members of which are appointed, from now on, to all the critical public posts, ending the long-life perception of the close link between the political system and the Public Administration. For us, the state cannot be considered as loot and for this reason, we shall ensure its independence and its continuity for the public interest.
This bill introduces a new evaluation system of the Public Administration and bi-directional evaluation of its staff and of the superiors by their inferiors and vice versa. As the crucial matter in this evaluation is that the people who evaluate, have to be evaluated and not to work as a ‘clergy’ which controls everything. And of course, that is contrary to the previous punishing system, which aims to improve the administrative services being offered to the benefit of the public interest and to improve the effectiveness and the productivity of the public services.
It’ s been introduced a totally objective and meritocratic system of selecting the supervisors and the senior executives in all levels of Pubic Administration , fully transparent , objective and which adopts as its sole criterion the objective skills. We also introduce a radical change in the organization of the ministries and we create for the very first time the position of the general secretary with five years term service, which is going to guarantee the institutional memory and the governmental continuance in the ministries irrelevant to any governmental change, that is because in a democratic political system changes even to the very same governments and ministers take place.
However this situation where each times that there is a cabinet reshuffle, the minister or the heads of the ministry to change, that lack of the minimum institutional memory , someone should at least remind what are the choices and the axes. Those things have been in force for years in other European countries and in other state or public administration structures, but unfortunately not in our country. Finally this bill of law upgrades the National Centre of Public Administration and Strategy, which also acquires the role of Public Administration Observatory.
Furthermore I have to highlight that apart from this bill of law which will be submitted to the Parliament within the next days and we hope it will be widely supported, that will be discussed substantially at last with mainly the society and the public officers and of course with you through an open dialogue and open to remarks and alterations.
However beyond those that we are going to do we have already given our credentials. The new salaries regulation which disconnect the grades granted from the salary has already been enacted and for the first times after many years are provided although criticized some small increases to the salaries of the high qualified public servants. We cannot have an understanding under this populism, since how could someone build a credible public sector when for crucial posts, like the ones responsible for the control of the budget or enormous spending where interlace is easy, the salaries of the public officers are humiliating. First it is not attractive for someone who is qualified to remain and who can find something better in the free market. Second it is as if we challenge these people to that corruption climate that dominates. And this effort is made in a time period when we are obliged to follow a tight fiscal frame. Even that small effort that conquest which we managed to gain through our negotiations with the troika – I think its name now is quartet – was blamed as populism.
I also have to tell you that a competition for the new civil servants of the National School of Public Administration is in progress and we have secure the necessary funds for the competition over the next years in order to secure unceasing supply to the public services of executives of high scientific level and professional training. We know that for at least two years the acceptance to the School has been postponed.
We are also planning – and that’s the reason we are still in negotiations – to hire an important number of people in 2016. Our aim is to persuade – I think that our arguments are very strong and serious – so that some of the new recruitments of the next five years to happen a bit earlier. As at this moment the sectors with the most serious problems are the ones of education and health, and nobody could solve the problem with temporary solutions or through ESPA. So it is necessary for 2016 to reinforce our effort towards that and have an important number of new staffing, targeting at addressing the chronic problems mainly in Education and Health sector. We reinforce the use of new technologies aiming at addressing the chronic illnesses. I should tell you that for this issue we have already achieve very important success in the battle against economic crimes, mobilizing and upgrading all the auditing mechanisms. We have achieved important results and we will continue since needs more to be done for cracking down cigarettes’ smuggling, according to the latest facts.
Finally I need to highlight something important. You know of course that during our first tem our main target, all our ideas, thoughts and interest were focused on the negotiation. However someone could tell that in both time periods, almost a year now, we did not act either with revanchism, or revenge even in the case of the chiefs officials, who were not chosen as mentioned, with meritocracy. There were people they called us either naive or incapable. And that because even if we won twice in the elections we do not govern, others govern, however that was not naivety nor incapability, but a choice of principle. We are not going to operate like the previous ones, we are not going to appoint chiefs following non meritocratic methods. Let me give you two examples:
As far as the press of criminal charges against General Secretary for Public Revenues is concerned, I remind you that the previous government changed the previous General Secretary, obviously because they had some intergovernmental disagreements. And the next was chosen, you know according to which procedure. The consultant of the minister. We did not choose such a process, we chose an open assessment with interviews under objective criteria. We appoint as a General Secretary for Public Revenues not someone close to us but the one who assessed and had the qualifications.
The directors of the hospitals. We all know how they appointed, under the system 4-3-1. We decided that we need to change that. Of course we did not have the tool that we will vote now, and we decided that this change will be meritocratic. We did not sack the directors of the hospitals in one night. We went to the critical elections with the same directors and we said that we are going to create and we created it an independent assessment commission in which participate personalities of the state, professors, the Vice President of ASEP, without having the majority the persons in the government. No majority, on the contrary their participation was minority. They first assessed the first 120 and they judged that they are the most capable and remained in their positions. And now with an open procedure to submit interest, there will be an assessment of the new ones. That is the difference of perception and mentality that has come in action and now is enacted by this law.
So we are determined to move forward. To finish once and for all with these corrupted and clientelistic practices. We are determined to create the terms and conditions for entering a new era. To create a Greece who respects the rights of the citizens, a Greece of social rights and trust. A country which will not lack in institutions compared to the counties of the core of the EU, a country which will not resemble to a Greece of decadency, in two words a country of social justice, rule of law and meritocracy.
I want to tell you from my heart that it cannot be earned with one decision, one choice, one vote for a law. It’s a long and lasting procedure, it’s a procedure of fight with mentalities, and status quo. It’s a contentious fight. And in this fight we need you to be next to us. In this battle we need the executives and the people of Public Administration. And I am convinced that we are going to have you with us, criticising when necessary, helping to move forward.
I wish you from my heart good luck to your Conference, good luck to all of us to this effort to transform Public Administration and to reshape it so that to respond to the real need of the society and the citizens.
Thank you very much.