Anna Sanina, Associate Professor, Department of Public Administration, HSE Campus in St. Petersburg.
Evgeniya Kutergina, Researcher, Department of Public Administration, HSE Campus in St. Petersburg.
In Russia, the job of a public official is one of the least transparent to the public: more than 50% of Russians assume that 'people in power' are concerned only with their own material wellbeing and careers.
Yet the civil servants' own perspectives on the meaning and priorities of their occupation are vastly different from these popular assumptions, according to Sanina and Kutergina's paper 'Competency Profiles of Civil Servants in Today's Russia'.
The authors developed a questionnaire and administered it to 734 civil servants in St. Petersburg. In addition to technical competences (such as the skills of managing document flows or searching, verifying and analysing data), most respondents emphasised service to society as a core component of their job.
Thus, some 85% respondents prioritised the ability to assess potential consequences of their decisions and take responsibility for them, while 65% stressed social responsibility and 64% mentioned effective engagement with citizens and communities.
The most significant competencies, as reported by civil servants and municipal officials, % of respondents assigning the highest number of points (5) to the competence
Source: calculations made by the authors.
While 77% of respondents feel the need to comply with professional ethics, less than one-third prioritise "being well-informed in matters of international competition." The authors explain the latter finding by a general tendency towards international isolation in Russia's public administration: "while matters such as state secrecy and data leakage have traditionally been very much in focus, this trend has increased even more in the last few years."
The least significant competencies, as reported by civil servants and municipal officials, % of respondents assigning the lowest number of points (1) to the competence
Source: calculations made by the authors
The relative importance of competencies can vary for different positions and levels of authority (municipal, regional or federal).
The higher the status, the more an official appreciates the skills of making good decisions and taking responsibility for them. Likewise, having a sense of public duty is perceived as more important by high-level officials, while effective engagement with the community has higher value for municipal workers than for federal-level bureaucrats. The authors find this unsurprising, as "It is at the local level that officials have to handle appeals from citizens."
According to the researchers, self-reported job priorities should be addressed in designing occupational standards for public administration positions. While the government can always impose qualification requirements for bureaucrats, such requirements may have little effect, according to the authors who provide one telling statistic in support of this conclusion. Although for many years now, the country's leadership has declared the launch of a web-based 'open government', just 53% of current officials find it important to use IT in their work.
*This survey of civil servants (401) and municipal officials (333) was conducted between January and March 2015 in St. Petersburg and covered 24 local subdivisions of federal executive authorities, 36 regional authorities and 85 municipal administrations.