The reform of public administration in BiH is carried out by “invisible and even more often slow steps”…

“There has been progress in the public administration reform through the implementation of earlier strategic measures, but the key aspects of the reform – its depoliticization and professionalization, organizational and functional restructuring, establishment of accountability mechanisms and orientation towards citizens as end users – still remain challenge for BiH” told PARCO for

Public administration reform is one of the six key priorities of the European Partnership. A public administration capable of adopting and implementing the Acquis Communitaire is one of the most important prerequisites for membership in the European Union, which has been implemented since 2006 in a systematic and strategic manner.

The focus of the reform is not the reduction of employees, but the rationalization of public administration and its reorganization. The aim of the reform is to modernize public administration in such a way that it provides better services to citizens for less money. In addition, the aim is to eliminate the influence of political parties and the arbitrariness of the heads of institutions when hiring civil servants.

Also, the intention is to strengthen the capacities of civil servants in order to respond to the needs of citizens in a professional manner, but also when harmonizing our legislation with European legislation. The reform implies the simplification of the procedure that the administration leads as well as the digitalization of the services that the reform provides to citizens.

Invisible and slow changes

Regarding the progress of the Public Administration Reform, in the latest Report of the European Commission on the progress of BiH in obtaining candidate status for the European Union, it is stated that the laws on the civil service are still not harmonized with each other, and the principles of merit are not included in all recruitment procedures, while monitoring human resources is not effective in detecting irregularities. However, they state, changes in the administration took place, but often with “invisible and even more often slow steps”.

The report states that positive steps have been taken in the area of public financial management:

– A comprehensive Public Finance Management (PFM) strategy for the entire country has been adopted, which now needs to be implemented

– Each level of government has started implementing PFM strategies.

– State institutions have improved some professional trainings.

– The Entity of Federation of BiH amended the Law on Administrative Procedure –

“The political decision-making body that will manage the public administration reform has yet to be established to effectively manage the reforms. Therefore, last year’s recommendations remain largely valid. In accordance with the key priority of 14 Opinion, BiH needs to complete essential steps to improve the overall functioning of the public administration by ensuring a professional and depoliticized civil service and a coordinated approach to creating policies at the level of the entire country,” the report concluded.

In the next year, BiH should especially:

– Implement the state strategic framework for public finance management in 2021-2025 at the state level and extend the validity of the existing Strategic Framework for Public Administration Reform for the period 2023-2027 at the state level and in the Entity of Federation of BiH, and to complete and adopt e-government strategies at the state level and in the Entity of Federation of BiH and Brčko District.

– It is necessary to establish a functional coordination structure with the political decision-making body and improve the capacity of the public administration reform coordinators to guide the implementation of public administration reforms at all levels of government

– Ensure a professional civil service system, by amending the law on civil service in accordance with the principles of merit and establishing performance monitoring on the transparent management of human resources at all levels of government in order to detect irregularities

– Encourage citizen-oriented administration by developing a coherent policy framework on service delivery and related e-signature infrastructure at all levels of government to simplify and modernize administrative procedures and to digitize services for businesses and citizens.

Blockade of reform processes

The most important challenges of public administration today are the issue of professionalism and depoliticization, but also the need to establish the public nature of work as basic criteria and to turn public bodies into an efficient public service available to all citizens under equal conditions, is considered, among other things, by PARCO.

They point out that the reasons for the lack of substantial progress in public administration reform are multiple. Part of the problem, they state, lies in the complex and unharmonized constitutional structure in BiH, which is inefficient (public administration is regulated at several levels of government), and part of the problem stems from the unwillingness of political elites, despite declarative commitments, to implement the necessary reform measures. Due to different political appetites, since 2018, they say, we have also blocked the Public Administration Reform Fund. “The money is still unused in the accounts, and it could have been used in these 4 years for projects that would contribute to the reformed administration. We expect that the government will extend the validity of the Public Administration Reform Strategy until 2027 and resolve the issue of political coordination in public administration reform,” said PARCO. Enver Išerić, director of the Institute for Public Administration in the FBiH Ministry of Justice, also considers controversial the problem of blocking certain reform processes. “The problem we are facing is the blockage of certain reform processes by the Government of Republika Srpska, because, due to the non-adoption of the Memorandum on the Public Administration Reform Fund, there are 10 million BAM unused in the Fund for the implementation of projects which are foreseen in the Strategic Framework and Action Plan. The Government of the Federation has adopted the Agreement on the method of spending the mentioned funds, but we expect such decisions from the entities of the RS, the Council of Ministers and the Brčko District. At the level of the Federation of BiH, the problem is also the lack of personnel capacity in the Institute for Public Administration, because the Federal Ministry of Finance, despite the conclusion of the Government of the Federation, which orders the same Ministry to plan financial resources for strengthening the Institute by the Budget of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, has never planned the necessary funds, nor were they secured in any other way,” said Išerić for He believes that the Public Administration Reform is a continuous process, and that the conditions set by the European Commission can only be met with strong political support and with the strengthening of the capacities of the bodies that are in charge of that process.

SIGMA principles

Bosnia and Herzegovina, our interlocutors agree, should harmonize its reform processes with the SIGMA principles for public administration reform, which form the basis for the work of the European Commission in the field of public administration reform. These principles, he notes, define what good governance entails in practice and state the main requirements that countries should follow during the EU accession process. Namely, the SIGMA principles set the standards according to which the progress achieved in the process of public administration reform is measured, including the part related to public policies. As the strategic commitment of the country is full membership in the EU, for which it is a prerequisite among others the fulfillment of the so-called The Madrid (administrative) criteria, SIGMA principles represent the key parameters in relation to which the achieved progress of the country is measured.

The SIGMA principles are divided into six reform areas – Strategic Framework for public administration reform, policy development and coordination, civil service and human resource management, accountability, service delivery and public finance management.

The Public Administration Reform Strategy is based on these principles.

It can’t be done overnight

SIGMA’s 2021 reports show progress in most areas of public administration reform since 2017, despite the COVID-19 pandemic that began in early 2020 and widespread political instability. On average, the performance of Western Balkan administrations has improved since 2017 in all areas except the public administration reform Strategic Framework, where all administrations, except North Macedonia, were in the process of establishing, renewing or expanding their public administration reform strategies in 2020-2021. Albania and Serbia showed the most consistent and significant improvements in all areas. North Macedonia was the only administration that improved its strategic framework for public administration reform and made good progress in public procurement and accountability. Montenegro has made the most progress in public service and HRM. PARCO states that it is the fact that the public administration in our country cannot be reformed overnight, and that BiH cannot continue its path towards the EU unless the public administration is made simpler, more functional, more transparent, and unless the public administration is in the service of all BiH citizens! “If you look at the experiences of the countries in the region, you will see that although they have reformed part of their administration, the reforms are still ongoing because the administration is adapting to European trends anew. According to the latest assessment of the European Commission, BiH is still in the early stages of public administration reform, and the institutions have made limited progress. And what is generally missing is the lack of political commitment to reforms and evidence that speaks of commitment to reforms”, said PARCO to