We continue our series of interviews with experts from the team of U-LEAD with Europe Programme’s support to improved administrative service delivery, with the assistance of which up to 600 Administrative Service Centres will be established in Ukraine.
Viktor Tymoshchuk, the team's chief expert, in an in-depth interview, talks about the key areas of administrative service reform, reasons why electronisation of services is not a panacea, what should employees of inappropriate ASCs do, and things the quality infrastructure for administrative service delivery in hromadas depends on.
Victor, your experience in the field of administrative services exceeds 20 years, you are one of the best specialists in Ukraine and have stood at the origin of key undertakings in this field. What are the challenges now?
In my opinion, the key challenge now is to pursue the implementation of the decentralisation reform and administrative services. We have a new President, new Parliament, there will be changes in the Government, and this will mean that many reforms can be stopped, rethought or rejected at all. Administrative service reform is a successful enough reform that should continue in defined directions. There are five of them and they all need to be developed at the same time. The first is deregulation and reduction of the number of administrative services. This is also a key requirement for the second direction - digitisation / electronisation. The third direction is the transfer of powers to local self-government bodies. Creation of integrated offices, i.e. ASCs, is the quintessence of decentralisation in terms of services and a separate successful direction of the reform. The fifth direction is streamlining of relations on payment for administrative services. These five strategic strands of the reform must move in a balanced manner.
What important processes of administrative service delivery need to be changed first?
First of all, it is the sphere of civil acts’ registration. For over two and a half years, the governmental draft law was pending in the Verkhovna Rada, but has not progressed at all. And now it must already be passed by the new Parliament. I would like it to be passed as soon as possible.
The same applies to the state registration of land.
Next we need to work with the passport sphere, since when it comes to mass services, this is one of the most important, as passports are needed by everyone.
Local experience has already shown that delegating more powers to territorial hromadas is right and efficient.
The Team of the U-LEAD with Europe Programme’s support to improved administrative service delivery at Conference on the occasion of the launch of Implementers’ work (NIRAS Sweden AB) on establishment of proper ASCs in hromadas
How can Ukraine be ranked among other European countries in the process of decentralisation and reform of the sphere of administrative service delivery?
We have studied similar experience in Poland, Estonia, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, the Czech Republic and other countries. There are common trends and features. Of course, everyone knows Estonia's experience with a special link to the electronic component. But we must take into account the scale of Ukraine – large territory, Internet coverage factor, number, Internet readiness and composition of the population.
Therefore, on the one hand, the dynamics of administrative service sector reforming, especially in the last 10 years, is quite good. Many of our administrative service centres are as good as those in Germany or Poland in terms of services and infrastructure.
There are about 800 ASCs in Ukraine. Only a third of them are proper, therefore the ones that provide the most essential services in comfortable conditions. Why aren't others? The only reason is that they were established before 2014-2015?
Yes, 440 of the existing ASCs are Centres under the rayon state administrations, according to experts only 5-10% of them are proper in terms of infrastructure and the list of services. Though it is difficult for them to be competitive even in the list of services, since they do not have many powers of local self-governments, for example, residence registration.
The 400 improper ASCs of RSAs are a large resource. Given that their elimination or transformation is inevitable, what would you advise the employees of such ASCs?
There is only one advice: when you have the opportunity to move to a local seld-government service, because an ASC is being established there, be sure to use this chance, since your experience and ability to provide a wide range of services is very necessary. By the way, the reorganisation of the ASCs under RSAs and creation of joint ASCs with LSG bodies is also a priority of the U-LEAD Programme.
Meeting of the U-LEAD with Europe Programme’s selection committee for ASC establishment and modernisation
You and your team create about 600 proper ASCs. What are the main challenges faced by hromadas the Programme works with? What unites them?
There are enough challenges: political will of the local mayor (city, settlement, village) to create a proper ASC, a situation where even the existing powers of local self-government are not integrated into the established ASC, and a staff hunger challenge.
ASC of the Zolotnykivska AH in the Ternopil Oblast was established with the Programme’s support in January 2018
If the first factor depends on political will, on the desire of local authorities to make services really accessible and quality ones, then what determines the second factor – personnel issues?
If we talk about how to establish an ASC within the existing resource or available staff, the decision already exists in the local self-government bodies. Therefore, in the process of the ASC’s staff formation those employees who already work for the local council should be engaged. And often there are already specialists involved in the residence registration; land specialists; officials providing civil acts’ registration services, notary public, etc. Many hromadas already have state real estate and business registrars. These people need to be involved in the ASC’s team, their universality and interchangeability should be developed.
The ASC in the Kiptivska AH provides about 100 most popular administrative services
Suppose we are really going to move in a balanced way across each of the five reform directions you formulated, what will the Ukrainian ASC be like in five years' time?
If we manage to gradually overcome all the problems we have discussed, then the vast majority of hromadas will have good ASCs in terms of both infrastructure, service delivery and service processes. In the next 5-10 years, we may exceed the figures of present-day Germany or Poland, when up to 30-40% of services will be received online. There will be more self-service places in ASCs, when more than one workplace will be created for visitors, and employees will only assist in a consulting format.
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