Ministers and other senior government officials continue to aggressively lobby for patronage appointments of new civil servants connected with them or their political parties, the head of a body overseeing Armenia’s state bureaucracy said on Tuesday.
Manvel Badalian, chairman of the State Council on Civil Service, claimed to have resisted such pressure, saying that job competitions administered by the body are fair and objective.
“I am the head of an independent body,” Badalian said. “My position is not lower than that of a government member. I excluded and continue to exclude a [successful] official pressure.”
“There may be requests. But the biggest pressure comes from friends, neighbors, relatives, former classmates,” he told a news conference.
An Armenian law adopted in 2002 mandates the selection of ministry personnel and other civil servants on a solely competitive basis that takes into account their professional qualifications, rather than political views or affiliations. Badalian’s council, formed by the president of the republic, is tasked with holding job contests, evaluating civil servants’ performance and protecting them against arbitrary dismissal.
“Recently we had an unpleasant case -- unfortunately such cases are not rare -- where representatives of a particular ministry made every effort to make one candidate pass the tests because that’s what was instructed by their minister or a regional governor,” said Badalian. He did not name those officials, though.
Badalian also complained that civil servants are still frequently forced to join one of Armenia’s three governing parties or do so in order to please their bosses affiliated with those parties. “When there are contests for vacant posts, as a rule, we see among contest participants members of a party with which the head of that agency is affiliated,” he said.
The official already voiced such complaints at a May 2010 meeting of Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian’s cabinet. “Our parties seem to be becoming employment centers,” he said.
Representatives of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) and its two junior coalition partners, Orinats Yerkir and Prosperous Armenia, denied any involvement in the alleged practice at the time.
Badalian on Tuesday also urged civil servants not to tender resignations and thus forego legal protection after disputes with their superiors keen to get rid of them. He said such instances are a regular occurrence in Armenia. “There is nothing we can do in these cases,” he added.
The State Council on Civil Service has organized more than 230 job contests so far this year. No winners were selected in about 40 of them.
In Badalian’s words, there are vacancies that attract no applications at all because of modest pay. He said the tightest competition is for government jobs that give their holders opportunities for corruption.