"I'm ashamed of my job. I'll leave the public sector as soon as possible."

June 23, 2015

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Translation of article  “Szégzellem a bunkum, elhagyonm a közszférát, mihelt lehet” appearing in hvg.hu on June 23rd, 2015.

János Lázár, Minister responsible for the Prime Minister’s Office is right.  The situation of the state administration is truly alarming.  Bureaucracy is complete chaos.  Everybody is trying to escape from incompetent leaders and pointless expectations. The administrators indicate many problems and abuses. Even if the state reforms followed one after another, the results cannot be seen. Here are the results of the Lázár-consultation.

“The state is in alarming condition”, the system is big, unruly, heavy, over regulated.  The method by which we we pay taxes is complicated.  And the state administration obstructs people – said János Lázár at a professional forum at Szekszárd.  At the same time he said requires information in order to solve the problem.

With this declaration Lazár basically admitted that the Orbán-government has failed to reform the state over the past five years, despite the government’s 2010 agenda aiming to reduce the bureaucracy and the reforms going on since that time. The reform of the system of local governments and regional public administration took place, and schools and healthcare were nationalized.  Simultaneously new and new improvements to public administration took place, about which anyone was free to comment at the so-called Good Government Forum. Almost 4000 ideas and suggestion arrived and the government said that they have dealt with them. However, the dedicated website was available for only a few months.

Hvg.hu asked its readers to make comments to Lázár through their website.  The most interesting judgements are presented below. We do not mean to suggest that it presents a thorough picture of the condition of the Hungarian state.  But it can be seen that Lázár is right: the state operates very poorly in many areas.  In some cases it is even absurd.

Bureaucracy from inside

Some people wrote about the everyday life and working conditions in the offices. Many officials said that, were the ministers to ask them, they could tell stories.

In order to reduce bureaucracy and to improve the administration processes one should not interview the people in the street, but those who actually work in the public administration offices, and not those who sit in the “reserved seats” and only made difficult the life of the workers.

One government official agreed with the Minister responsible for the Prime Minister’s Office that the biggest problem is the over regulation.  The method for handling matters is written down right down to the last detail.

the administrators have no possibility to diverge from the prescribed procedure, even if he or she knows that it is only a waste of time, and in some cases, the money of the state as well.

It is often prescribed that they contact another state administration for some information, even if the information is not needed. But the rules are the rules, and usually it makes the administration more complicated and more expensive.

According to feedback from employees in public administration, it is all is about statistics and producing better numbers.  In this manner that  productivity of the workers is shown to improve, even if beyond a certain point it is counterproductive.

It does not matter that my expenditures have been continuously raising. And that the cost of my performing point work have to be taken away from somewhere else, because I will not get more assets

wrote an officer without specifying any details in order to remain anonymous. In his opinion the pointless expectations of performance just bloats the number of cases to deal with:

I have more than 1500 cases. Even the high ranking leaders acknowledge that this is a lot, more than five times the work load I could handle normally.  And every day they scold me because I am not current.

Many wrote that the directors and decision makers make decisions as to who things should be done are not familiar with the actual work processes.

These people got to leading administration positions not on the basis of their deep experience or knowledge of bureaucratic operation.  In fact, they probably never held an administrative position where they were responsible for executing decisions in which they had to adhere to prescribed procedures in the interest of efficiency. In other words they lived in a the shell of an office, not in a bureaucracy.

If somebody notes that a certain process or work order is pointless the answer usually is: “There are hundreds of others ready to fill your position”.

Actually, it is not true in all cases. Many believe that after reshaping the government offices more and more public servants quit. Those who stay do the work of two or three others. Sometimes they also have to substitute and take the responsibilities of other departments due to the lack of employees.  It takes one or two years to train new colleagues, and for this reason the burden on the older employees is further increasing.

According to those who wrote letters, the bosses treat them horribly. It is said that beyond the “normal working hour”” there is a so called “expected working hours” for which they receive neither overtime, money, or vacation. An officer wrote that in a certain month she was 30 minutes short in the hours she was expected to work, and he was warned the very next day that it should not happen again.

Wages – except for the top dogs – are not very attractive.   There has been a wage freeze in public administration since 2008.

I earn HUF 89.000,- (USD 325) a month after 5 years of employment. Meanwhile, people think I make great money at taxpayers’ expense. I am ashamed of my job. I am strongly considering working abroad, but I will definitely leave public administration as soon as possible. I have been looking for a job for a while, and many of my colleagues would escape from this chaos.

It seems that they did not hear that public administration is enforced professionally and morally as well, at least according to a government statement.

Bureaucracy from outside

Clients also made their comments. Many readers suggested to János Lázár to bring the IT systems into the 21st century. One reader received a letter from the local government at an address he left seven years ago, despite his having registered the new address at the local government.

Someone asked for foreclosure because he could not collect a debt, and the executors came to him. The reason was his name was a very common name, but no other personal data was matching. The case was solved only after a series of phone calls and letters.

However it was only a simple data mix up compared to the following one:

I have been teaching in a school since 1978. Last November the state pension fund sent me a letter (at a cost of HUF 500,-) requesting me to harmonize my personal data. According to their records, I received wages from 16 different places. From another HUF 500,- letter it turned out that they do not know where I worked in 2012.  So for another HUF 500,- I have sent them the stamped paper that I have been working on the same place since 1978. To this day I have yet to receive an answer.

It is strange that the pension fund did not know where she worked in 2012.  It probably means that after nationalizing the schools the new operator, Klebelsberg Institute Operator Center (KLIK) mixed up the data.

In the field of education there are other cases indicating the imperfection of the system. For the last couple of years the law has prescribed that technical students engage in= four or six weeks of continuous summer pratice. The keyword is continuous. Many families would have liked to go for one or two weeks holiday, or send the kid to a summer camp.  However it is almost impossible to modify the training contract as four signatures is necessary for it (the company employing the student, the school, KLIK, and the chamber as well).

Somebody discovered that the summer training is only valid and acceptable if it is not interrupted. The parents are threatened that if the kid leaves for a summer camp he will be dropped out from the training site. Or one parent was told they should not go for a summer holiday so long as the child is in school. As four signatures are required, the contracts cannot be modified and it is impossible to handle them flexibly.

Another specific case Lázár spoke about may help to understand why the state is heavy and inert. The Polish wife of a reader living abroad gave birth to their baby. The husband wanted a Hungarian passport for his son. The embassy said it would take two to three months to register the wedding in Hungary, and approximately the same amount of time to register the birth. Only then could they apply for a passport. How did the story end?

I asked the clerk what we can do if we would like to leave the country in the next six months. She immediately suggested we turn to the Polish embassy as that is much faster. She was right. They provided a temporary passport in a week valid for one year.

And so on and so forth

The healthcare system often causes discomfort.  For example, special examinations and treatments are basicly only available before noon in workdays. They say that car registration for the new owner is a calvary, and the administration at the local documents office is no better. Courts should also be reformed as there are a huge number of postponed cases.

Employers continue to complain about the complicated ways of paying taxes.  For example, they must they must fill in seven transfer checks each month even if there is only one employee.  National Tax- and Custom Office (NAV) online program for filing tax returns can also cause aggravation.  It sometimes happens that the program verifies that the filing is correct and the NAV subsequently requests a corrected or modified declaration. In other cases the software signals that there is an error, but it is not relevant in the case of small enterprises (it was a VAT declaration and the client was told to send the declaration in, even if the software signaled the mistake.)