NU professor about the reform of the public sector: there should not be punishment for failure, but reward for success

Professor of the Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Public Policy Colin Knox has been researching issues of public sector reform, public administration, public, and civic councils, as well as issues of quality of life and well-being in Kazakhstan since 2016.

Talking about the main results of his long-term research, the expert noted several state initiatives that, in his opinion, are very good, and also some that could be supplemented and refined.

Thus, the professor strongly supports the idea of creating an electronic government and the principle of a “one-stop shop” in terms of the digitalization of public services.

“One of the things that officials were particularly good at was limiting interaction between officials and citizens of Kazakhstan, which in turn limits opportunities for corruption. Of course, corruption is still a problem in the country, but the One-Stop Shop initiative clearly helped in terms of limiting the ability of officials to extort bribes from citizens as well as the opportunities to speed up the process by giving bribes,” the expert explains.

The initiative to create “public councils”, although good, has not yet won the trust of citizens, Knox added:

“The format was supposed to be as follows: three-thirds of these public councils were to consist of private citizens, NGO groups, and one-third of officials. However, the experiment failed, in the sense that the Public Council is still associated more with a government body. But the Council was supposed to become the voice of the citizens of Kazakhstan around key public services, such as health care, education, and social security. In fact, ministries have begun to use the body in a different way – to pre-scan the legislation they plan to implement. So I think the potential of using this mechanism as interaction with citizens is not really realized. “

Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Public Policy regularly organizes training sessions on best practices where Professor Colin Knox teaches Kazakh officials.  Based on this interaction with civil servants, the scientist has noticed that many are afraid of taking risks and responsibility at work for fear of losing their position.

“As a foreign observer, I want to influence the mindset and say: let’s not punish for failure, but reward for success. Because if a civil servant does not take risks, he will never think creatively, and without creativity, there will be no innovative thinking. Civil servants should not be afraid of punishment for mistakes but learn from them. I think that in this way we would raise the level of public services in Kazakhstan,” the professor reflects.

It is noteworthy that before joining Nazarbayev University, Dr. Knox worked at Ulster University in the UK. The professor led the team to develop the Professional Doctoral Program for senior officials working in the public sector. Prior to his scientific career, Dr. Knox worked in local government in the UK for 8 years.

For more information, please contact Nazarbayev University Press Office by email. mail pressa@nu.edu.kz or tel. +7 7172 706091.