01 November, 2012

I would like to talk about the senior civil servants who have served under the Saakashvili administration. This is an important group with a great number of talented individuals. Afterwards let me say a few words to them.



More and more, I am hearing the term Nazi applied to people who worked for the Saakashvili government, or supported it, or sometimes supported it or also sometimes criticised it, or defend those who have supported it, or who have criticized Ivanishvili or

Otsneba. Let's remember that the Nazi party lead the world into the biggest war in history and killed millions of Jews and others. Tossing that word around conversationally at political opponents even in private, indicates somebody who either has a very blurred historical perspective, or is simply heavily partisan.



Certainly the United National Movement government had its excesses. There was corruption, probably on a grand scale in some sectors. There are plenty of stories around now as there were in the past and I would guess that some of those stories are true. And the new government will investigate them, as they should, and those who stole money or broke the law will be punished. But while these things where happening there were many who were simply taking care of state operations, doing their job. Some times they didn't blow the whistle when they knew something wrong was happening. And they should have, even though they would have been fired. Or worse. But that is not the worst crime in the world. And often they prevented stupid ideas that came from above from being implemented. This happened in private so nobody knows but it happened a great deal. In a few months or a few years, senior members of the dream team will make some mistakes; some things that would be embarrassing if people knew. Some subordinates will in turn cover up or turn away from recognition of those mistakes. Let's keep that in mind.



For those in new positions of leadership, ministers, and others who are or will lead important state entities. Consider taking the time to meet with these people. Just take an hour or so to meet with each of them. They don't necessarily expect to keep their jobs and some don't even want to, but they would at least like a chance to talk, to be listened to, and to have an exit briefing. And it will be interesting. The main thing is talk to people before you send in a minion to ask for a resignation letter, have a chat and listen.



Also remember that there was quite a reshuffle of ministers in the final months of the UNM government. As was often the case, since the UNM could never agree on a comprehensive civil service policy or law that would give rights to civil servants, often when a new minister came in, scores of old employees were moved out. Those people are also worth talking to.



And remember. You won. Be magnanimous. You can already see that transformation happening. For the first month after the election, many in the new leadership was very suspicious, and harsh. That is softening now. As it should. You won, act like it.



The UNM had this terrible view that anybody who was not with it, was against it. When people, including the Ombudsman they appointed, tried to tell them that prisoners were being mistreated, they ignored it, and even accused those in NGOs who said this of being biased grant eaters. Now when somebody criticises GD, there are many who will call that person a Mishist or Nazi. Interestingly it is the GD supporters that seem to be the most harsh. Most of the actual GD coalition members and leadership seem to be much more conciliatory and to have much more perspective than the supporters. Let's hope the supporters eventually follow their lead.



An important indication will be to see if the new government will prioritize whistleblower protection. There has never been any in Georgia, and there would be no better way for the new government to signal that they wanted to do things differently than for them to give formal legal protection to whistleblowers.



And now a few words for those civil servants who are being ignored, or asked to resign or fired, or left wondering what will happen in some kind of limbo. First of all, be patient. The new leadership has plenty to do in organising things among themselves, and many other things. Some of you are rushing into new political jobs or media, or think tanks which is what off cycle politicians do. I have found that those of you who were most confident or even arrogant, most difficult to get a hold of, and most contemptuous of what could be learned from people outside government circles tend to be the ones rushing off to the media and think tanks. The ones who were easier to get a hold of and more willing to listen to a broader circle, tend to the ones that are less sure what to do now. These are the ones who have been working hard without looking up or around for so many years. To them I adresse the second thing I want to say.



If you are asked to leave it is not the end of the world. I have been been fired or asked to leave several jobs and each time it was a very good thing. Or put another way, staying would have been much worse than going. You have been working hard for several years by a very demanding bunch of people. Maybe you will work with the new group but if not, maybe consider now a good time to start living. Talk your family rather than playing with your Blackberry all the time. Think about what you want out of life. You have been given an opportunity to look examine your life and to think about it. Most people don't get that chance. This is not an end, it is a possibility for a new direction. Recognize that.



And for those of you going around calling people Nazis, please stop.