By Karine Kalantarian
Many senior Armenian bureaucrats do not meet required professional standards and are often less competent than their subordinates, according to a government body that supervises the civil service.
“Our impression is that we have a fairly weak cadre contingent especially in the high-ranking positions,” the head of the State Council on Civil Service, Manvel Badalian, told reporters on Wednesday. “There are a lot more sound, flexible, informed and competent people in the lower echelons. We can be proud of some of them.”
Badalian said 27 top civil servants have failed to pass qualification tests conducted by his agency and have been dismissed as a result. He said he was “appalled” by the professional level of some of them. However, he refused to name any names, saying only that those officials headed departments at various government ministries.
A total of 73 government employees are said to have failed the so-called “attestations” held by Badalian’s council in accordance with Armenia’s controversial law on civil service which took effect in 2002. The Armenian Ministry of Health has had the largest number of fired officials: 14. Ten others worked for the Finance Ministry.
The attestations involve written examinations and verbal interviews. A similar procedure is used in the selection of new civil servants, which is also administered by the seven-member Council appointed by President Robert Kocharian.
According to Badalian, it has organized in the last 18 months 426 job contests and chosen 845 people to fill various government vacancies. He said no one has yet applied for over 70 other vacant posts, most of them in the lower and middle ranks of the state bureaucracy. The sector’s modest average salary of 22,000 drams ($38) seems largely responsible for the lack of interest.
Kocharian and other Armenian leaders say that the law in question will make the civil service more efficient and independent by protecting its members against arbitrary dismissal and regulating their selection and promotion. Critics, however, argue that the verbal interviews make the process discretionary and can therefore be abused. They also say that the civil service body itself is not independent because it is single-handedly formed by Kocharian.
But Badalian insisted that none of its decisions has been dictated or affected by the executive. He said he only feels “moral pressure” from his friends or relatives keen to get lucrative government jobs, but will not cave in.