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Kazak Government Building Bridges towards a Stronger State
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The Government of Kazakhstan has initiated a participatory working group to facilitate civil society contributions to a national assessment on public administration and civil service. This initiative builds on expert support, civil society recommendations and a recent government study visit to Canada, which together highlighted the benefits of strengthening the assessment`s transparency and opportunities for civil society engagement.
Over the last 20 years Kazakhstan has significantly improved its human development record: with increases in expected years of schooling by almost 3 years, GNI per capita by 33 per cent, and life expectancy at birth by 1.8 years (since 2000).
This progress has led to strong demand for an efficient and modern civil service, an optimized management structure to regulate and service the market economy, strong capability to decide on and implement priorities, and a state that protects national interests. This collective demand for a professional state is highlighted as a priority in the long-term development strategy "Kazakhstan-2030: Prosperity, security and improved living standards for all Kazakhs".
While a number of complex reforms in public administration have already been implemented, and continue to be pursued at all levels of government, the 2010-2015 UN Development Assistance Framework highlights significant disparities between the objectives of local governments and their capacity to deliver. It also stresses the underdevelopment of civil society organizations hindering inclusiveness and equitable access. The Presidential administration has taken the lead in addressing this, together with the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, by developing a national system of public administration assessments for central, state and local executive bodies of oblasts (regions), cities of republican status and capital cities.
With assistance from the UNDP Global Programme on Governance Assessments and the Democratic Governance Thematic Trust Fund, a project was designed in March 2011
to support the improvement of the assessment methodology and framework,
to promote a multi-stakeholder approach and accountability principles,
to raise public awareness and
to build capacity of civil society, all of which are expected to contribute to the performance assessment.
It is expected that this assessment will enhance the Government’s capacity to identify gaps in public administration and reinforce overall accountability mechanisms in the civil service.
A first public and participatory discussion of national public administration assessment system was launched at the International Conference of 26 November, followed by a working level workshop. It also facilitated an essential dialogue between the government and civil society organizations on governance assessment issues. The discussion resulted in a number of important decisions, including the start of comprehensive revision of the assessment methodology and launch of inclusive working group to develop new rules for NGOs’ participation in the assessment.
Top –level government officials’ genuine interest in promoting best assessment practices in the national system was expressed at a number of project forums, and reflects an important milestone at the decision-making levels. Reflections from a study visit to Canada have also helped to promote a more comprehensive approach towards the assessment system as part of a broader public administration reform, including modernization of civil service, refinement of strategic planning and budgeting as well as economic and democratic transformation. Fundamental reform of the civil service, review of results-based budgeting and process of strategic planning at the central and regional levels are scheduled to be implemented in 2012-2014.
Review of the assessment methodology and familiarization with the Canadian experience revealed to national stakeholders a number of gaps and challenges which need to be addressed in order to ensure that the national assessment system effectively promotes principles of transparency, accountability and democratic governance. As a result, the process of significant methodology revision was launched in December 2011 to reflect on expert recommendations and study visit information.
As an effort to raise public awareness on public administration assessment and fulfil information gaps, the project has developed and launched a dedicated website www.bagalau.kz. At this resource website the general public and expert community will be able to find the results of the assessments, learn about NGO contributions and explore international experiences and expert reports.
The Pilot assessment of 2011 has clearly identified a need for further improvement of a system and rules for civil society participation. Non-governmental organizations raised concerns over limited access to government information, low staff and professional capacity of NGOs, and lack of financial resources to complete the assessments. With the help of project and expert advice, a number of benefits and potential areas for civil society contribution to the assessment were presented and discussed at number of meetings.
Following up on these, the Government has decided to start a participatory working group to discuss and elaborate new rules for civil society participation in the assessment, as well as prioritized public services area as potentially benefitting from assessments with NGO involvement. The project will continue working with the Government to promote participatory approaches in the assessment framework and methodologies.