Special digest! What to expect from the reform of local state administrations
Last plenary week, MPs passed in the first reading a draft bill on reforming local state administrations (LSAs) — local bodies of the executive branch. The bill changes the appointment procedure for heads of LSAs and the relation between the state and local governments. Today’s digest is about how MPs envisage the work of LSAs.
Status: adopted in the first reading, MPs can submit their amendments before the second reading.
Who is affected:
- the President and the Government: they appoint heads of LSAs, guide and control their work
- heads of LSAs, their deputies and employees: the bill changes the procedure of their appointment and defines a list of their tasks, functions, powers, and the range of responsibilities
- local governments: the bill defines the relation between state and local governments, their influence and control over each other
- Ukrainian citizens: quality of their living depends on the effectiveness of the work of local state administrations.
Why this is important: LSAs represent the executive branch at the local level. Thus, observance of the law and implementation of governmental decisions, the success of the reforms and state policies depend on the quality of their work.
- according to the Constitution, heads of LSAs are appointed by the President upon the submission of the Cabinet. As a result, heads of LSAs are dependent on the President and instead of implementing governmental policies tend to respond to orders from the Office of the President
- in November of 2017, MPs abolished the requirement to appoint LSAs’ heads via competitions. Competitions were introduced in 2016 to start appointing LSAs’ officials for their professional qualities and not their political loyalty
- there are 24 oblast state administrations and 136 raion state administrations in Ukraine.
hat does the bill change:
- grants the Cabinet more power over LSAs — to guide and coordinate their work
- changes the appointment procedure for LSAs’ heads:
- introduces a limit of 3 years for their term in office
- from January 1, 2022, heads of LSAs are to be appointed by the President upon the submission of the Cabinet while the Cabinet will be obliged to submit candidates that have won their competitions. Only one candidate per position can be submitted
- defines time limits for the Government to prepare its submissions and for the President to approve or refuse them
- makes positions of first deputies and deputies of LSAs’ heads competitive. Newly-appointed heads of LSAs will be able to dismiss their first deputies and deputies after three months after been appointed
- defines the authority of LSAs:
- to coordinate the work of central executive bodies’ territorial offices and ensure the legality of their work
- to cooperate with local governments and oversee the legality of their work
- to ensure the observance of the Constitution, laws, decisions by the President, the Cabinet, and other executive bodies
- to exercise delegated powers (for example, issue town planning restrictions, approve passenger transportation routes and schedules, help to raise investments, etc.)
- makes it harder for oblast and raion councils to vote no confidence in LSAs’ heads:
- the motion of no confidence can be initiated only after the head delivers a report on exercising some of his or her powers. Moreover, such motion can be initiated only after a year since the report has been delivered
- the procedure can be initiated by no less than half of a council. After the procedure is initiated, consultations start
- the council can vote on the matter after 20 days after the consultations started and only at a regularly scheduled session
- if more than half of the councilors support the motion of no confidence, the President decides whether to dismiss the head of LSA at his or her discretion, if two-thirds of the councilors — the head in question has to be dismissed.
What is right:
- competitions for positions of LSAs’ heads will be restored from January 1, 2022. If contest committees start to select the best candidates and take into account only professional qualities, LSAs will eventually become professional executive bodies instead of political subdivisions and campaign offices for parties in power
- the work of LSAs will be disrupted less frequently since their heads will be harder to remove from office and at the same time they will rotate on a predictable basis
- with the creation of a pool of candidates for heads of raion state administrations, new heads will be appointed quickly, without a several-months delay for conducting competitions
- the ordinances passed by local governments will be published on their official websites.
What is wrong:
- some provisions of the bill are unconstitutional:
- redefined rules for the motion of no confidence in an LSA’s head render it unworkable: to vote no confidence is possible only after an LSA’s head delivers his or her report, so the head can just refrain from reporting. Since the Constitution does not define a list of cases when the vote of no confidence should be initiated, reporting cannot be the only such case. In practical terms, the vote of no confidence is a political decision and should not be regulated by the law
- the pool of candidates for heads of raion state administrations will be under the President but the Constitution does not grant him the authority to do that
- there are no unified standards for competitions, so there is a risk that competition results will be rigged. As a result, the necessity and efficiency of competitions will be doubtful
- the logic of appointing deputies of LSAs’ heads is flawed. Heads of LSA’s appoint and dismiss their first deputies with consent from the Government while at the same time they appoint regular deputies at their discretion. However, both first deputies and deputies are supposed to be appointed via competitions and nor heads of LSAs’ nor the Cabinet has no authority to interfere with these competitions
- LSAs’ authority to oversee the work of local governments, monitor the legality of their ordinances, and adopt acts that local government are bound to obey can antagonize LSAs and local governments
- the problem of the peculiar status of Kyiv local government where the city state administration exercises the most important powers of a city major is not addressed by the bill. As a result, the right of the community of Kyiv for self-governance will remain infringed and the city council will still be dependent on the President.
What’s next: MPs have time until March 18 to submit amendments and remedy the defects of the bill.
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