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Public service of the future needs to replace personnel and digital update


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The public sector, in order to function well today and in the future, depends on the replacement of servers in areas that have shrunk in recent years, such as the environment, culture and diversity. At the same time, it needs to plan to replace low-complexity jobs affected by automation and make functions related to service provision more flexible.

Without civil servants, the State finds it difficult to implement public policies. This is what happened to Ibama (Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources) in the opinion of Suely Araújo, former president of the autarchy and professor at UnB (University of Brasília).

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This report is part of the Professional Public of the Future series, a partnership between Sheet and Repú, which debates eight topics around the modernization of the public service in Brazil.

Ibama employed 5,495 civil servants in 2002, but the number dropped to 2,544 in 2021, according to data used by the government’s transition group, in which Suely participated.

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For the researcher, the staff deficit impacts the agency’s activities, such as inspection of pesticides, combating deforestation and environmental licensing.

The number of inspectors appointed by ordinance —a civil servant who takes a course to act in the prevention of environmental crimes— has also decreased. Ibama once had 1,600 of these employees, but today there are just 700.

“There is a direct correspondence between the decrease in the number of inspectors over the years and the increase in deforestation,” says Suely.

According to Francesco Bonelli, a researcher at the IFBA (Federal Institute of Bahia), the problem goes beyond the numerical deficit because it involves the lack of structure in the career of these civil servants.

“They are federal environmental agents only based on an ordinance, which can be revoked”, says the researcher. Inspection is then left to the whim of political winds, blocking the continuity of environmental strategies that work.

A similar deficit exists at Funai (National Foundation of Indigenous Peoples), now in the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples. In 2012, there were 2,587 employees on the agency’s permanent staff, but the number dropped to 1,343 ten years later.

The foundation is responsible for the demarcation processes of indigenous lands, which were frozen during the Bolsonaro government. The demarcation policy, however, should be resumed with Lula (PT) and Minister Sônia Guajajara (PSOL).

Culture is another area with repressed social demands that lack staff. At Ancine (Agência Nacional do Cinema), for example, although the number of vacancies has increased in the last ten years —from 272 employees in 2012 to 392 today—, the demand for work has increased more than the capacity of the technical staff.

This is the assessment of Kátia Morais, associate professor at Uneb (University of the State of Bahia) and researcher in the field of audiovisual political economy.

Since its founding, Ancine has accumulated both promotion and inspection functions, with activities ranging from financing cinema renovations to monitoring television quotas.

“This generated overload on the servers”, says Kátia. The researcher considers the agency’s public policies important because not only did they decentralize audiovisual production on the Rio-São Paulo axis, but they also increased the participation of underrepresented groups.


If, in the short term, social demands call for job replacement, in the long term, public administration needs to adapt to technological changes.

According to a study by researchers Leonardo Monasterio and Willian Adamczyk, funded by Enap (National School of Public Administration), 20% of public service vacancies are susceptible to digitization.

Most of these jobs are in the Ministry of Education. Positions such as administrative assistants, office and library assistants are more likely to be replaced by robots, automation and artificial intelligence in the coming decades.

“These are job openings for secondary activities, which are not aimed directly at the public”, says Monasterio, a researcher at Ipea (Institute for Applied Economic Research). Around the world, these functions were in less demand.

If the public sector does not adapt, says Monasterio, it will be stuck in time. For the researcher, the great benefit of automation appears in the gain in productivity, which translates into improved services.

This adaptation, however, does not provoke discussions about dismissing public servants. “It’s about preparing them to deal with these technologies and offering them the possibility of changing careers.”

For Wagner Lenhart, former secretary of management and personnel performance at the Ministry of Economy and director of Banrisul, it is difficult to readjust the activity of this server, even with technological changes, because of the diversion of function. “If he was hired for a certain activity, you can’t put him to do another.”

This rigidity hinders a requalification that would be positive for both the server and the government, continues Lenhart. “You would be able to invest for him to requalify himself, even acting in the challenges of digitization”.

In the evaluation of Evelyn Levy, PhD in public management, not all civil servants need to be statutory —a category of civil servants hired through a competitive examination that has benefits such as stability.

“This type of contract should be restricted to typical functions of the State, which formulate, supervise and implement public policies.”

According to the specialist, stability is useful for cases such as that of the server Luís Ricardo Miranda, who denounced irregularities in vaccine contracts from the Ministry of Health in 2021.

With statutory servants in service roles, such as doctors, the state takes longer to adapt to new technologies or different government agendas, says Evelyn.

“They are careers with rigid activities”, he says. “Flexibility should be the keyword for the public sector today.”

The public management specialist says that a fixed-term contract is a solution. With a simplified selection process, temporary servants are hired more quickly, which allows the public administration to follow population trends and emergencies.

Under federal law, these contracts can last from six months to six years. In the states and municipalities, however, there is a lot of variation and little clarity about what rights these public servants have and what activities they can perform.

According to the specialist, due to this legal uncertainty, some temporary servants were 20 years without benefits, such as access to the INSS (National Institute of Social Security), a situation reversed by the Judiciary. Therefore, in Evelyn’s view, the challenge is to improve the laws to protect them.

mapping needs

In a note sent at the end of the Bolsonaro government, Ibama said it appointed 568 new civil servants in the last contest.

With changes in the bylaws, now 93% of commissioned positions are now occupied by career civil servants, says the autarchy. Sought, the current administrations did not respond.

Ancine, on the other hand, states that it maps work needs, which are met by the commitment of servers and task forces. “A diagnosis of human resource needs to face the agency’s new challenges will be presented to the government and Ministry of Culture.”

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