Local government training capacity in Romania: an institutional perspective

Local government training capacity in Romania: an institutional perspective

HAB 382 BALA Durai yamuna Habitat International 24 (2000) 433}442 Local government training capacity in Romania: an institutional perspective夽 Pe...

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HAB 382




Habitat International 24 (2000) 433}442

Local government training capacity in Romania: an institutional perspective夽 Peter Nientied* , Sorina Racoviceanu &Institutional Development and Training for Urban Management, 1997}2000', Romania Institutional Development and Training for Urban Management, IHS, PO Box 1935, 3000 Rotterdam BX, Netherlands

Abstract The article deals with the problems and prospects of local government training in Romania. Training for local government is seen as a rather new service that has to be developed, produced and delivered, like all public services. In the Romanian case, this service is delivered in a semi-public manner. Firstly, the paper will take an institutional view of the capacity of local government training and highlight that conditions in the general environment produce almost insurmountable problems for the small local government training sector to strengthen its capacity. Secondly, the capacity of the local government training will be considered from a market perspective. It will be highlighted that the market for local government training is still very imperfect.  2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved. Keywords: Local government; Training; Capacity building; Romania

1. Introduction In Romania, education and training were state responsibility before 1989. After the 1989 revolution, Romania's economic and political systems changed, but public administration systems

This project receives support from the MATRA Programme, Netherlands Ministry of Foreign A!airs. More information on this programme can be found on !!www.IHS.nl!.  Former Project Manager of the Project &Institutional Development and Training for Urban Management, Romania 1997}2000'.  Former Project Co-Ordinator of the Project, &Institutional Development and Training for Urban Management, Romania 1997}2000'. * Corresponding author. E-mail addresses: [email protected] (P. Nientied), [email protected] (S. Racoviceanu). 0197-3975/00/$ - see front matter  2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved. PII: S 0 1 9 7 - 3 9 7 5 ( 0 0 ) 0 0 0 0 8 - 4


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lagged behind in development (cf. UNDP, 1997a). Those favouring public sector reforms concluded then * logically * that the available public sector human resources were inadequate and formed a constraint to the government to perform its new roles in a mixed-market, democratic and decentralised society. This argument, in fact, was applied to the whole economy. It was expected that in all spheres of the public sector massive training needs would be de"ned. However, by and large local governments did not come forward with an articulation of their own inadequacies, and did not develop human resource development strategies. Also, until 1997 the national government did not develop any serious plan for local government strengthening. Despite this, a sector of local government training did emerge, but it is small, and has been having a di$cult time to sustain. In 1994, six small training institutes were established in Romania, called the Regional Training Centres for Elected and Appointed O$cials (RTCs), each catering for a speci"c region, and together covering the whole country. The six institutions are participants in a project called Institutional Development and Training for Urban Management Romania 1997}2000 (called RomMatra). From an institutional perspective, the capacity to deliver a service is a!ected by and embedded in a hierarchy of factors involved. From the speci"c to general, "ve levels of study of the service to be delivered, are identi"ed (Hilderbrand & Grindle, 1995; cf. Batley, 1997). The lowest level 1 concerns the capacity, the competence of an individual (trainer, o$cial, manager), and the same of a group, department, etc., in an organisation. Level 2 considers the structure and culture characteristics of the organisation and its leadership. At level 3 the task network of inter-organisational relations is analysed. At level 4 the development of the public sector segments connected to the particular service is discussed. The most general level 5 deals with the overall economic and political environment in#uencing a speci"c service sector. This paper will try to explain that in Romania the general environment levels (4 and 5) produce almost insurmountable problems for the small local government-training sector to overcome most of its weaknesses at levels 1}3. From a market perspective it is assumed that the quantity and quality of the local government training capacity would develop when demand emerges. It will be shown that the local government training market is still very imperfect, since: (1) on the supply side, training suppliers need external support; (2) the (perceived) needs for local government training di!er from the actual demands that drive the development of training supply; and (3) capacity strengthening at local level is still very di!erent from bridging the gap between what local governments can do and should be doing (according to the law, according to specialists).

 In general words: `Most importantly, the health of the economy will depend on having a new kind of labor force, a labor force in which skills change is normal at many stages of one's working life, in which problem-solving skills and entrepeneurial attitudes are available in a very high proportion of the population, male and female, rural and urban, in both pre-university, vocational and university program. Plumber or professor, it does not mattera (World Bank, 1992, p. 101).  The project &Institutional Development and Training for Urban Management', "nanced by the MATRA Programme of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign A!airs, is a 3-year project that started in Romania in June 1997. The project addresses the issue of strengthening local government abilities in the "eld of urban management, enhancing the level of success of the perceived decentralisation process. The project is managed by the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS).  See Montiel (1997) for a recent review of literature on institutional development.

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Table 1 GNP and growth Country


Av. ann. growth % 1985}1995

Rep. of Moldova Bulgaria Romania Poland Czech Republic

920 1330 1480 2790 3870

? !2.6 !3.8 #1.2 !1.8

Source: World Bank development indicators 1997 (cf. www.worldbank.org, March 1998).

2. Level 5: economic and political milieus The &democratic coalition' that came into power after the elections of November 1996 * this after a rather stable, slow reform, period of &socialist' government * has serious problems. The economic and "nancial environment is declining at high speed. The cabinet quarrels internally about budget cuts and the planned reforms, the labour unions oppose job losses in the process of company restructuring and privatisation, and workers ask for an in#ation correction of their salaries. IMF and the World Bank have continued to impose credit conditions, and the government has announced a programme for reform acceleration * the main objectives of which are related to privatisation and monetary policy. There is little concern for reform of public sector organisations in the political debate. It is useful to compare Romania with some of its neighbours (Table 1). Despite the 1992}1995 years with a positive economic development, the present economy is not as yet at the pre-1989 level. It is said, however, that the medium term economic prospects for the Romanian economy are positive. The transition processes of Central and Eastern European countries are complex. It is not so di$cult to advocate that in#ation has to be controlled, that ine$cient big companies are closed and that all kinds of economic, "nancial and socio-political measures are implemented. But the opinions of foreign and local specialists are not consistent and of course the specialists do not have to deal with managing the potential social and political disturbances due to the reforms. Di!erent role models for the public sector are available in Western Europe (which signi"es the aspiration level of the Romanians, and relates to their European identity), and Romania struggles with the question of what is the core business of the public sector, what role the government should play in a democratic country and in a market oriented economy.

 See: InReview, Romania's Magazine for Business, January/February 1998.


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3. Level 4: the public sector More so than in other Central and Eastern European countries, organisational structures of the Romanian public sector have been left unchanged after 1989 (UNDP, 1997a). UNDP observes that the public sector is characterised by problems such as a lack of co-ordination, coherence and continuity, continued politicisation, a lack of policy-making and management capacities and a weak accountability system (UNDP, 1997b). According to the Law No. 2/1968 on the Administrative Organisation of the Territory of Romania and based upon the Art. No. 2 of the Decree No. 38/28 January 1990, the national territory is organised at present in the following administrative units: counties, towns and communes. The 40 counties are composed of the administrative territories of communes and towns. The towns are the basic urban territorial units. The towns that have a larger number of inhabitants and a greater economic, socio-political, cultural and scienti"c importance have the status of municipium. According to the Law No. 69/1991 on Local Public Administration, the public administration of the administrative units is based upon the principle of local autonomy, decentralisation of public services, the eligibility of the local public administration authorities and the consultation of citizens on problems of special local interest. The main responsibility at the county level is to co-ordinate the activities of the communes and towns. In 1997, the new government had serious intentions to improve the context of local government functioning. As summarised by UNDP (1997b) `The government plans a comprehensive revision of the law on local government, including a re-de"nition of the functions of self-governing authorities, to include transfers of responsibility in the areas of health, education and social policy, and a re-de"nition of the relations between local state administration and self-governing authorities. Control on decisions and activities of local self governing authorities will be limited to legality control. The separation of state and municipal property is another important element of the re-de"nition of relations. Additional important elements of the local government reform chapter include the professionalisation of local civil servants. The law on local administration (69/1991) will be amended to provide greater autonomy for local self-governing authoritiesa. `Local autonomy is a dead letter without a signi"cant level of "nancial independence. Signi"cantly provisions on local government "nance have been included in the government programme, which promises the stabilisation of "nancial transfers from the central government and an increased level of "nancial independence for local self-governing authority. The government intends to adopt a new local public "nance law, which should clarify "nancial relations between local self governing authorities and the central governmenta. The new Law on Public Finance, enacted in October 1998, includes important elements for consideration of local authorities. It su!ers, however, from severe implementation problems. Major political questions related to local autonomy and democracy have to be settled before decentralisation can start. Two basic perspectives on the context of local government reform are presented below, a more pessimistic and a more optimistic view. Key points of these views have been translated into two scenarios in Table 2. In which directions the process of reform will develop, has to be seen during the coming years.

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Table 2 Development scenarios Item

Scenario A

Scenario B

Political stability Progress political reform Performance economy Public sector reform Decentralisation Local government

Unstable Limited Mediocre Slow No development No signi"cant change

Stable Good Good Progress Progress Progressive reform

Coulson (1995), Gibson and Hanson (1996) with an interesting Romania case by Campbell (1996), ILGPS (1994), and Bird, Ebel and Wallich (1995) have discussed in detail the situations in di!erent Central and Eastern European countries and the most outstanding issues in local government. It is evident from the literature and actual practice that local governments in Central and Eastern European countries have numerous and serious shortcomings, such as: (1) a lack of experience with local democracy; (2) limited management experience; (3) inadequate legal frameworks; (4) very limited budgets; (5) problems with adapting to the new role of local government in a market economy, (6) new relations with citizens, (7) issues of transparency and accountability, etc. Three aspects of Romanian local realities related to human resource development need further elaboration. The local political system: the system of local democracy is in Romania quite often interpreted in a rather narrow sense, of local politicians voting in a local council. Concepts related to &democracy' in Western Europe such as participation, transparency, accountability to voters etc., are not high on the agenda. Quite a few local politicians concentrate on a short-term political agenda, and operate on a personal or group rather than electoral basis. Local political representatives sometimes play a weak role in the commissions in which they participate. Local government administrators may be better informed, but of course are subject to the decisions of politicians. Politicians may get involved, through political party membership, in the appointment of the senior professional sta!. This (informal) system improves relations between the council and administrators, but may be very detrimental to the transparency of the local government. Limited xnance, poor working conditions in local governments: With the repeated rounds of budget cuts, a healthy working environment, with investments for enhancing productivity, is not achieved. Salaries of the professionals and managers in local government service have lagged behind the salaries in the private sector. Many professional sta! who quali"ed for private sector jobs left local government and cheaper recent graduates replace them. Most professional sta! in the public sector needs a second job after o$ce hours to make ends meet. This puts pressure on o$ce attendance (and the willingness to participate in training programmes). The heritage of &old organisational cultures': Many of the pre 1989 characteristics of the organizational culture still prevail. These characteristics impact on cooperation, horizontal and vertical coordination, access to information and networks between people. Also, it a!ects the attitudes of people towards rules, regulations and procedures. As a repercussion of the times before 1989, there


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is on the one hand an in-built resistance against procedures and regulations. On the other hand these function as defensive systems, and as a mechanism for favouring speci"c clients of the local bureaucracy.

4. Levels 1 and 2: the regional training centres for elected and appointed o7cials There were initially six Regional Training Centres for Elected and Appointed O$cials (RTCs), located in six cities, having their own established area for training delivery, and one Training Centre for Local and Central Public Administration, in Bucharest, a$liated to the National School of Political Studies and Public Administration. This system of training for elected and appointed o$cials from the local public administration was established in Romania with the help of the European Union, under the PHARE } DELOG Programme, implemented in 1993}1994. This programme proposed a network of regional training centres; each of them organised as a public, autonomous entity, with its own statutes and responsibility for "nancial self-su$ciency. These centres were formally established under Romanian Government Decision no. 542/1995 and 1321/1996, with the approval of the Ministry of Education and the Department of Local Public Administration. Each of the centres had an Administration Board with representatives from the county level. The National School had an advisory and approval role regarding the training methodology and programmes. The RTCs provided training for a number of a$liated counties (from 5 to 8 per centre), working independently from an organisational point of view (fees charged for training, certi"cates, duration of programs, quali"cation of trainers). The seventh centre, the Training Centre for Local and Central Public Administration, in Bucharest, was a post graduate institution of the National School of Political Studies and Public Administration, and the only centre addressing also the central public administration. The PHARE Programme gave an initial support to the RTCs, in the form of a donation to "nance equipment, and to conduct a Training of Trainers course for 30 people. Now, after a few years, it can be established that almost nobody from these 30 persons is still connected to the RTCs. The PHARE e!ort was clearly ad hoc. It involved a legal intervention * to set up RTCs * but did not pay attention to the continuation of the intervention. In November 1998, under the Government Decision no. 850/1998, the Training Centre for Local and Central Public Administration was restructured, and the National Training Center for Local Public Administration was established by this reorganisation. Under the same Government Decision, the Regional Training Centres for Elected and Appointed O$cials were reorganised under the name of Regional Training Centres for Local Public Administration. The location of these centres and their a$liation to the counties remain the same. All the centres are public institutions, with juridical personality subordinated to the Ministry of Education. They are self-"nancing. The only "nancial resources are participants' fees, and resources through programs funded by donor agencies. All these training centres are directed by a Board of Administration formed by representatives of the Ministry of Education, representatives of the Department for Local Public Administration, and presidents of the county councils from the a$liated region. There are signi"cant di!erences between the functioning of di!erent RTCs, and their attitudes towards training needs and programs developed, training methodology and fees charged/"nancial

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strategies. The equipment and facilities of the RTCs also vary widely * from basic to rather good. In terms of contents, communication and participation, RTCs are at times rather weak. A major pressure RTCs face in their operations is related to generating paying participants from the public sector: participants able to pay the course fees, on top of the expenditures for travel and especially accommodation. In local government * with their very modest budgets * the speci"c item &training' in the budget is very limited. The directors of the RTCs play an important role in the functioning of their centres. Their personal connections in the region, for example, are of major importance in securing trainees for the training programmes. Their professional backgrounds in#uence the topics dealt with in the training programmes. The housing and equipment of the RTC often re#ects the extent of local support that they enjoy. The trainers, working mostly on a freelance basis for the RTCs, have a less important role. Their future with the RTC depends largely on the evaluation of the program for which they were responsible, their personal relation with the director, and, more importantly, on their personal commitment to the job. So far, too little attention has been paid to the quality of training, to the training techniques, or development of training materials. The style of teaching is often rather conventional (in extreme: reading and explaining new laws on local government, using dictation and the blackboard, no group work and sharing of experience). The fees paid to the trainers are generally rather low and depend on the "nancial situation of each centre. From a professional and academic point of view, RTCs cannot o!er a rewarding and stimulating work environment for their teaching sta!.

5. Level 3: The RTCs' task network Early after their establishment, in 1995, there were few, if any links between the various RTCs. The mere fact that in 1997 some RTCs had developed into small, active centres, and others had not come into existence as yet, says of course something about the environment in which the RTCs carry out their tasks. Some of the chief external relationships of the RTCs are discussed brie#y below. This analysis of the task network of RTCs provides information on the di!erent levels of interaction. RTCs and central government: Although established under a government decision, there are no clear relations between the RTCs and the ministries that created them. Representatives of the Ministry of Education and of the Department for Local Public Administration are members of the Administrative Boards of the RTCs, and of the Scienti"c Commission for Strategy and Methodological Valuation of these centres (this commission is set up in order to coordinate the didactic and methodological activity of RTCs, but has not yet met). RTCs and the county councils: This relation varies from one centre to another. Representatives of the County Councils from the a$liated region are members in the Administrative Boards. In some cases they are helpful by sending participants to training programs, and in other cases by supporting the activities of RTCs in terms of o!ering o$ce space and logistical support, and/or making available experts for speci"c topics for training. Many training programs address problems in rural areas, and in this respect, County Councils are serious partners for a dialogue and co-operation. When it comes to urban areas, County Councils have a more limited in#uence in getting participants.


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RTCs and local councils: Although this level of local administration is basically the focus of all programs, the relation between RTCs and local councils is generally weak. A matter of local pride is involved in the case of big cities. They are reluctant to send sta! for training in a small centre, but also a lack of information, communication and marketing play a role. Moreover, big cities bene"t also from training programs o!ered by NGOs acting in the "eld and "nanced by donor agencies. Because of the budgetary constraints that big cities face, there is a preference to send sta! to these programs for free, instead of to the fee-based programmes of the RTCs. RTC &internal+ networking: No serious attempt of the RTCs to work together was made until 1997. This is not so surprising in view of the di!erences between RTCs in terms of their stage of development and interests. One may also appreciate that the present collaboration initiatives are still fragile. The project Institutional Development and Training for Urban Management managed to bring all RTC directors together in a "rst meeting organised in Bucharest, in July 1997. The issue of networking, formalised in the creation of a joint foundation of RTCs, was discussed for the "rst time within the context of this project. Various reasons were identi"ed for the importance of establishing closer links between the RTCs, and of progressing with the establishment of a foundation: (1) the need for joint marketing of RTCs (competition increased as some private companies and NGO's started to enter the "eld of training for local administration); (2) the need for a joint approach to central government; (3) the need for co-ordination of quality development (relations between RTCs did not facilitate communication and exchange); and, (4) possible access to international projects (RTCs, as public institutions, cannot apply for international funds only available for NGO's, but a joint foundation of RTCs would have such access). In conclusion, the explanation for the rather weak position of RTCs within their task network is due, on the one hand, to their ine$cient marketing and a lack of co-operation among them with a view of becoming a strong partner for discussion in the decentralisation process. On the other hand, RTCs enjoy very limited support from government.

6. A market perspective on local government training After the discussion of all "ve levels of study related to the development and supply of services from an institutional perspective, we can now turn to a market perspective. Markets are under some form of market regulation. In markets demand and supply meet and produce a market outcome. On the supply side, we have shown above that local government training in Romania is not well developed as yet. The supply of short-term training by educational and other professional institutions for professionals and politicians is limited. Various institutions supply training to local government, however often training with a legal focus. Some NGO's, the Federation of Municipiums, and several other organisations, have provided more modern short-term training. In general, such training has been organised through projects with international funding. It is often part of a broader programme, is supply driven, almost always for free, often of a high quality with inputs from foreign specialists, and generally of a rather ad-hoc nature.

 Of course the supplier states that it responds to a demand, and is therefore demand driven.

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It can be argued that there is at present a growing competition among training institutions in this market. Turning to the demand side, it can "rst of all be questioned what can be understood as demand. It is clear that training needs are still ill-de"ned by local government. Two main reasons for this are that, "rst, central government does not e!ectively promote local government development and decentralisation, neither does it de"ne well what local government should do and what they therefore should know. Second, in local government the internal capacity to de"ne its needs is limited. In addition, local governments do not give priority to training for which they have to pay. Not only their budgets are rather limited, there is an attitudinal point here too, like &training has always been for free, it should be a merit good and be for free'. Suppliers of training cannot provide training for free, unless somebody else pays for the costs involved. It can therefore be concluded that the training demand and supply side and the pertaining regulation do not really constitute a market, where the local government can choose from an array of opportunities, and pay for what they want at a full or subsidised price. In the present development stage of Romania, the development of a local government training market can be stimulated by central government (through regulation), or by external funding to both the demand and supply side (thereby creating an arti"cial market). It is expected that the second possibility is more likely than the "rst.

7. Conclusions: the capacity building question The &capacity building question' discussed in this paper was about the capacity of local government training in Romania. The focus in this paper was on the role and functioning of the RTCs. Presently, these have limited capacities, and struggle to achieve a critical size to survive and develop. Their training products are appreciated, but do not fully meet the local government demand. Moreover, local governments have di$culties paying the training fees. Hence, RTCs cannot recover costs and lack resources for quality development. It is expected, therefore, that for a number of years to come support for RTCs has to be secured from abroad, since donor priorities for improving local government training are apparently higher than national and local priorities in Romania. It is concluded that strengthening and sustaining the capacity of RTCs can only be achieved if the overall local government context improves, if decentralisation is taken serious by government, if budgets for training are augmented, if norms and values in government change, etc. In short, if scenario A of Table 2 changes into scenario B. Of course, good quality sta!, innovative training methods, a good income generating strategy for the RTCs all help * are all necessary * just like better inter-organisational relations will help in strengthening the capacity of the RTCs. However, the analysis of the local government training capacity from an institutional perspective clari"es that improvements at the level of RTCs will not be su$cient to enhance and sustain their capacity under the present unfavourable meso and macro environment.  What is a &need' however, depends on the de"nition of what is a problem, who feels the problem. And problems are problems of course in the eyes of the beholder.


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Acknowledgements The authors are grateful to Monique Peltenburg for comments.

References Batley, R. (1997). A research framework for analysing capacity to undertake the &new roles+ of government. University of Birmingham: Development Administration Group. Working paper 23 project the role of government in adjusting economies. Bird, R. M., Ebel, R. D., & Wallich, C. (Eds.). (1995). Decentralization of the socialist state, intergovernmental xnance in transition economies. Washington: World Bank. Campbell, A. (1996). In J. Gibson, & P. Hanson, Local government and the centre in Romania and Moldova. (pp. 73}111). Coulson, A. (ed.). (1995). Local government in Eastern Europe, establishing democracy at the grassroots. Aldershot: Edward Elgar. Gibson, J., & Hanson, P. (eds.) (1996). Transformation from below, local power and the political economy of post-communist transitions. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. Hilderbrand, M., & Grindle, M. (1995). Building sustainable capacity in the public sector: What can be done. Public Administration and Development, 15(5). ILGPS (Institute for Local Government and Public Service) (1994). Local government in the CEE and CIS, 1994. Budapest. Montiel, L. (1997). The institutional development of local government in less developed countries: a literature review. University of Birmingham: Development Administration Group Papers in the Administration of Development 62. UNDP (1997a). National human development report Romania 1997. Bucharest. UNDP (1997b). &ROM/97/017/A/01/99'. Strengthening democracy, governance and participation (DGP) in Romania. Downloaded from: http!!www.undp.org (March 1998). World Bank (1992). Romania, human resources and the transition to a market economy. Washington.

Further reading Bucharest City Hall (1997). Study regarding the economic}social evolution of Bucharest City * Accomplishments and prospects. Bucharest (Mimeo). Jacob, F. A. (1995). In R. M. Bird, Ebel & Wallich. Decentralization and local government xnance in Romania. (pp. 223}248).