At the bequest of Greece’s creditors, the government is planning to institute sweeping changes in top-level civil service appointments that aim to bolster meritocracy and policy continuity.
The creditors are demanding the appointment of permanent general secretaries at ministries, who will be chosen in a transparent competition, for a four-year term.
At times in the past, reform-minded politicians had called for permanent appointments in top civil service jobs, but no government to date has resisted the allure of patronage appointments.
The candidates will be selected with the transparent procedures followed by the Supreme Council for Civil Personnel Selection (ASEP), which administers exams for civil service posts.
The agreement was reached in talks between creditors and Administrative Reform Minister Olga Gerovasili, a former government spokesperson.
The general secretariat is the nerve centre of ministries and the main organ for the day-to-day implementation of policy. After the minister, the general secretary is the government’s top point man at ministries.
Ending cronyism, ensuring continuity
Until now, it is the prime minister who has appointed general secretaries, without being required to even consult the minister.
The sacking of top level civil servants by newly elected governments, and their replacement with their own political cronies – most often parliamentary candidates who failed to gain election – has been the bane of the Greek civil service for decades.
It ensured the continuity of patronage and the concomitant lack of meritocracy.
The same recruitment procedure will be implemented in the selection of ministry general directors.
Agreement with creditors
The government has agreed with creditors to implement procedures of transparent, electronic evaluation and selection of candidates.
It is hoped that handling the process online, as is done now with auctions of foreclosed properties, will help stem work stoppages and strikes, and all manner of labour mobilisation in reaction to the new measures.
The first proclamations calling for interested candidates to apply will be issued in early December, and all general secretaries and general directors will have been chosen with the new procedures before the end of the third bailout programme review.