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E–Government As a Relief for the Administration and Citizens

Against bureaucracy – is the end of the queues coming? Chairman of the State e-Government Agency Rossen Jeliazkov before the Bulgarian National Television, BNT1 Channel, “More from the day”.

– We start with Rossen Jeliazkov, Chairman of the State e-Government Agency. Good evening and welcome!

– Good evening!

– As of September, administrations will exchange all their documents electronically, that’s what you notified. Two months remain until September. Firstly, can this be done within this timeframe, and secondly, what will in practice mean to us, the citizens, to find out what will make life easier for us.

– I’ll split the topics in two. On the one hand, electronic document turnover between administrations is an advantage for the mere administrations. This will help saving time on transfer, processing, etc. More interesting is the question of how citizens’ lives will be facilitated, and since I heard in the announcement that it is about the end of bureaucracy, let us trace the etymology of the word “bureaucracy.” This is “administrative government.” This is a deviation in the normal form of government, where we have electoral bodies that make decisions on behalf of its voters. In the bureaucracy governance is exercised by the permanent administration, which should not be the case. Therefore the mere word “administration” is charged with negative connotation. Otherwise, in the common language, bureaucracy is a complication of the ordinary citizen’s life with complicated procedures, applications, requests, extraction and carrying of documents between the different administrative structures in order a citizen – a natural person or a legal entity – to fulfil his own legitimate interest, to realise his own desire or request, or something the law imputes to him.

This in itself is a rather complex task. For many years there has been talk of reducing administrative burdens. Every year, we report rates that reduce administrative burdens as a result of everybody’s empirical approach, and we feel that it not only does not reduce this burden but it increases. And this is most clearly felt and articulated by the business. Anyway, this topic, like any thing in the dialectics that has quantitative aggregations, sooner or later must find its solution. It seems as though the time for proactive action has come. I would say that the difficulties are conditioned not only by the analogy, paperwork, processes that have been abundant in recent years, but also by the complications, for good or bad, that come from the transposition of European legislation, which in no way replaces the national, but creates additional rules, additional requirements. And last but not least, the understanding of those who are called upon to draft regulations and legislation that the protection of the public interest goes through greater aggravation to the mandatory requirements for one or other thing. But we are finally faced before some aggravating administrative procedures. And here as support comes the e–government.

– But has this come to an end? This is the question. Otherwise, good intentions exist. Now that you have come to explain the etymology of the word (bureaucracy), I think that I have studied how great empires, the Roman Empire, for example, are taught that if you want to have a strong state and to govern by all means, you must have a strong religion , strong army and strong administration because it holds you. And bureaucracy. Is that the reason why there is no political will for so many years this matter to be addressed and how much time now for us that we have started to do and see that there is such an intention is taking us right now, for example...

– These are a set of factors. Of course, political will is this process accelerator. On the other hand, technological options are the ones that give concrete solutions. As far as e–government is concerned, we should not put the word “electronic” as a leading one. It’s about governance. The goal is not to replace some analogue processes with some electronic processes. The point is to optimize the mere business processes within the mere administration.

That is why the Cabinet’s recent decisions and the Prime Minister’s instructions are in this direction – to facilitate the administration’s processes in several directions. Firstly, there should be a review of the regimes which, by virtue of norms of law and where they are not related to a specific protection of the public interest or do not represent a commitment to the EU, are to be abolished. On the other hand, if they may not be abolished – it is about regimes and administrative services – to find an approach to reduce the internal administrative documents that are needed to implement this service. Because the analysis showed that only the central and territorial executive administrations have 1422 administrative services for which around 6 000 documents circulate in the turnover of these services.

– I’ve read what you said, it’s scary, really.

– It is scary, and by adding the municipalities where is the ordinary person’s everyday contact with administrative services, mostly affecting his everyday life, the administrative services reach over 3000.

– Well now, which are the most commonly used documents? 12, people say, certification documents are the ones most often searched for and required. Do you have any idea how long it takes to get them recently, and how much time do we lose on queues so far? And does this will change as from September, what deadline you have set up?

– In queues, the time that is lost – of course, the inefficient use of time, the only valuable resource in our lives, is actually a loss – empirically estimated at about 26 million man–hours per year. You may consider by yourself the economic effect or the defect of this loss by added value in the economy. On the other hand, the September ‘s deadline is set in several directions, but will return to these 12 services. This is the beginning of these modes or services that serve the realization of others and may be exchanged between individual departmental databases automated or semi–automated. This means that in order a citizen to fulfil a service, he must certify a number of factors and circumstances – what is his/her name, where he/she lives, what his/her marital status is, what property rights has, etc., which happen either with a document or with a declaration. An example is the notorious criminal record, which is used to prove the presence of a fact that a person has not been convicted. These documents are issued annually, filled in, carried by people from one place to another.

In fact, the main principle of governance, especially in e–government, is the one–time data collection and their multiple reuse. This is a basic principle. Once the information about a person about his/her status, family and property is collected, it is not necessary the mere person to prove or to transfer this information, but the administrations themselves have to access the base registries, to exchange this information without people dealing with it. Because it is compiled, “collected”, by the administrations for the needs of the administrative service.

These 12 certification regimes, which have been notified and will be continuously added and updated and more and more are underpinned in the basis of administrative services, should be exchanged ex–officio from the autumn and people relieved of this burden.

Several other commitments were undertaken as a demonstration of the possibilities and the desire to demonstrate effectiveness in introducing e-Government. These are the administrative services provided by the Traffic Police with regard to the transactions with motor vehicles, the administrative criminal activity in the Traffic Police and the Ministry of Interior, the subject of the criminal record. I.e. there is a synergy that should be used for the process.

– Now to understand – in that case if I have gone to a place to take my criminal record to bring it to another place on another counter and show it there, and it’s already in the system and your second counter downloads it from there, from the PC, I do not go to the first, is the fee abolished? The payment of a fee as it was previously paid upon receipt of this document or is it still has to be paid but already at the second place?

– I’ll give you an explanation. It will no longer be necessary to obtain a certificate. Because the certificate is a paper that certifies whether a person is convicted or not. This is required when it is legally conditioned, in law, between 40–50 laws is fixed as a document – must certify that the person bearing the certificate has not been convicted. Let’s say the Civil Servants Act – who wants to be employed on a state service, must not be convicted, says the law. But the law also says that this circumstance is proven by a criminal record provided by the person. We say this: anyway, in the criminal records database, this information is available, it can be accessed ex-officio, and this certification is not a burden for the job seeker, in the case of the Civil Servants Act, and the appointing authority with the authorization, which it has, to access and to establish this circumstance. And so in the other dozens of laws.

So the very term “criminal record” will be abolished despite the skepticism of some, expressed in recent days.

– The other skepticism that was expressed ...

– And because you put the subject of the fee in question, there will be no fee, because it is about the ex-officio exchange of information. The ex-officio exchange of information is not a service provided to citizens, but data from one administration to another. I would say that the effect on the budget will be about 3 million BGN per year. Transmitted in time, which people will save, the effect on the economy is multidimensional.

– Then another thing on this topic. Bank branches, which are most common for the convenience of citizens in the mere institutions. There is no choice, in the sense that you go to pay at the bank branch you fall on. And the fee you have to pay, and the fee for the bank. In this way, they hold a monopoly on these fees, which is charged together with theirs. Will this continue as a practice or will it will be replaced by the POS terminals you are talking about?

– There is no effective e–Government when the fee has to be paid at the counter. Imagine an electronic service in a digital world and you must finally pay a fee against receipt.

– The services at the counter will remain, won’t they? Still, someone will be able to go if he wants to ...

– That’s right...

– How is it thought about?

– In fact, the mass introduction of e–services has reduced going to a desk, i.e. queues will drop out because many people will take advantage of these opportunities. Very important is the introduction of the virtual POS terminals, i.e.. the ability to pay your fees on Internet, as we know it is done in the modern world. It may also be paid with a POS physical device. This possibility exists also recently, but it is not used for a number of objective or subjective reasons. This analysis will be done because at many places physical terminals are not used or presented as an opportunity, but by the end of the year, together with the BNB, which is however the licensing authority, will go towards virtual POS terminals.

– Now other skeptical assessments are related to the fact that too much laws need to be changed to eliminate these administrative burdens. Is that really so and how long will these intentions take you to become reality in terms of legislation?

– From a law–making process perspective, yes, this is an energy–intensive process, and it has to be done carefully and precisely, especially with regard to the necessary procedures. On the other hand, the request to relieve administrative burdens does not divide but unites society and the Parliament should unite around these proposals. In this regard, all proposals that are currently being made will be submitted in due time, and whether they will happen before or immediately after the parliamentary holiday, of course, this is a matter of the legislator.

– Now a question asked by many of our viewers: is there a relation between the use of this kind of electronic services, as the environment changes, and mandatory possession and use of an electronic signature?

– At present, the availability of an electronic signature is the only one not to say the absolute but the only opportunity to use the actual existing electronic services. But we have many good examples with so–called personal identification codes (PICs) that are used in the NRA. This is an option that should be used as much as possible until the implementation of the national electronic identification scheme. At present, this project, which is the result of our commitments under Regulation 910 last year, is in progress, realized by the Ministry of Interior, and in the successful implementation of the project next year every Bulgarian citizen over the age of 16 will be able to declare his e– Identity with different means thereof – bank cards, smart cards, mobile phone, different platforms. And this will greatly reduce the need to use the electronic signature as a means of identification.

– We can also say that it’s expensive though ... Not everyone thinks so ...

– It is expensive, it is not convenient and for most of the consumers is some kind of exotic.

– You said that some of the fees actually will be abolished, about 3 million BGN, especially from these certificates. And what will be the policy with regard to administrative service fees at all? Will they be reduced as a trend? Should they be increased due to the cost of optimization? What do you think will happen?

– Everywhere in the world, and in our country, the principle is that the fee, which is actually the price of the administrative service, must include the material and technical cost of providing it without charging profit. Another issue is how the material and technical costs are measured – whether all the capital, operating and other costs are included in the tariff, whether they are undervalued or overvalued. In any case, there is recently a readiness to propose a new law that will regulate the principle of the formation of state fees and, subsequently, the formation of local ones.

– I.e. we are going to find out if they will go up or down.

– They should not go up anymore because the material and technical costs of providing services with the introduction of e-Government will decrease – both capital and operating costs.

– There is no time left to talk about security related to data and all the documents that already are going totally differently and in a larger volume from one institution to another and towards people, but I hope that there are also measures taken.

– There are two topics for sure – one is the data stored in the registries and the other is the personal data of the citizens.

– Thank you very much for this participation!

– Thank you too!

Source: Bulgarian National Television




State e-Government Agency

Bulgaria, 1000 Sofia, 6 "Gen. Yosif V. Gurko" Street"

Tel. +359 (2) 949 20 40, +359 (2) 949 21 15, Fax: +359 (2) 949 21 58

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