Deputy PM Leads Battle with Outdated Administration
All sorts of definitions have been heard of the Bulgarian administration. But it seems that what most suits it is the comparison with the mythological image of the three-headed dragon, who in case of losing one head quickly could grow two on its place. It is this skill that local officials mastered to perfection - whatever cuts or changes may be made with respect to their powers, they still find themselves more and more powerful.
The new daredevil who promises to deal with the administrative dragon is vice PM Rumyana Buchvarova. However she is not going to embark on direct clashes with the dragon but will rather try to dribble past "monster", claiming part of its power, until it becomes entirely harmless. Whether her plan will succeed remains to be seen. Now it is clear that Buchvarova will not be alone on the battlefield. During the week she presented the team that will carry out the administrative reform and will work for the introduction of e-government.
Head of her political office is Anton Gerunov. Advisors are: co-founder of the Protest Network Yassen Atanassov, journalist co-founder of Movement Bulgaria for Citizens Tomas Bykov – who will be responsible for fighting corruption among officials; Kalina Konstantinova, who will take care of the administrative reform, and Christina Ivanova - in charge of communications and media. Vasil Velichkov, who advised the deputy PM of the previous caretaker government, Iliana Tzanova, will now give advice for the eGovernment platform.
"We want to become modern administration and tinvolve the citizens and businesses alike. As the population decreases, the administration increased and today it employs around 120,000 people. The objective is the institutions to facilitate people by communicating better with each other. Priority will be given to the introduction of electronic services whose end user will again be both citizens and businesses,“ Mrs. Buchvarova promised.
How wrong is the today's situation became clear after the respective data had been released. In two-thirds of the administrative services performed in the country, the citizens and businesses are intermediaries between officials from various departments, instead of data being transferred from one administration to another through official channels. In practice, individual institutions do not have access to their separate information files. Only a small part of the central administration have created the conditions for applications and service delivery to be made through its territorial units, and no service can be applied for by municipal employees. Joint activities of several institutions do not exist at all. To all this one can add the common fact that officials invent all sorts of forms, declarations and certificates - just to collect more taxes and fees, and some services are refused under unclear motivesm which however can be quickly rectified against the desired amount in cash.
All this is despite the fact that back in 2012 - under the previous government of GERB, the state started the project for introduction of complex administrative services funded with over 2.5 million levs under the Operational Programme "Administrative Capacity". As contractor the software company "Technologica" was chosen which quickly prepared a basic model, published for public discussion just during the parliamentary elections in May 2013. Then on July 16 the government of Plamen Oresharski reviewed it and on its basis prepared amendments to the Administrative Procedure Code, voted later by the National Assembly. The key change was related to the introduction of the absolute prohibition for administrative units to require data or documents that are available to them or any other state body. In this way all the information necessary for the provision of the requested service should be provided through official channels, regardless to which institution (municipal or state) the application is submitted. But we never saw anything like that in practice. Moreover, since then the issue has made no progress and the otherwise good intentions remain only on paper.
The reason for this absurd situation is that in the Administrative Procedure Code provides that all interaction between the administration to which the request is made and the other participants in the proceedings must be carried out under the Regulation of Administrative Service. The latter has not been updated and therefore does not provide for such interaction. Only days ago did R. Buchvarova propose changes to be made in this regulation.
"We need to allow the request for a service to be submitted to the authority that is territorially closest to users. For example, instead of travelling to the capital, a service operated by the central administration, may be obtained in the regional or municipal unit, as well as in all territorial units of the institutions. This will significantly reduce the number of visits to various administration centres for collecting documents and evidence required for the provision of administrative services," explains Buchvarova. Accordingly, the Regulation on Administrative Services will create a new section, which governs the interaction between administrative units. According to it, an administrative procedure begins with an application in a uniform pattern. There people will write the name of the service, the authority competent to issue the act, the information and evidence to be provided and sent to individual, and how this will happen. The application will also give details how the requested document can be obtained. This can be done by mail, fax or even by e-mail, so that people will not have to be hanging in queues and waste time.
In fact, according to the proposed changes people will be able to declare a variety of services to the officials verbally, without filling in any application. For this purpose, the officials propose the establishment of a model protocol with which to document oral requests.
What is also envisaged is the creation of single points of information and services. Otherwise deadlines for their implementation will remain in the current framework, as it is estimated that the automatic collection of data should not delay the process.