The Administrative Service Centre as a development tool for municipalities
Viktor Tymoshchuk is the chief expert for improving the provision of administrative services to the public in the U-LEAD with Europe Programme
The administrative service centre (ASC) or TsNAP as it’s known locally, is an integrated office providing a wide range of individual and business-oriented administrative services. In many cities in Ukraine, ASCs started as “entertainment centres” for business, then extended their range of services to individuals, including the registration of domiciles, passport services, social services, and so on. The advantages of such centres are obvious. In cities, the ASC is primarily efficient and convenient, a “one-stop-shop” approach to service delivery that saves everybody’s time.
At the same time, with enlarged municipalities, the ASC is notably not a single service delivery place, but a system that consists of territorial branches and remote workplaces involving starostas or village officials, including mobile ones. In short, the ASC as a system means better service accessibility for enlarged municipalities and the rural population, which, in a large and populous country with complex demographics like Ukraine, is essential.
Digitalization is Ukraine’s future, but as the country is still in the process of improving its digital infrastructure and developing digital literacy and readiness, it needs a sound alternative to address local problems in the upcoming years.
A good example of a comprehensive approach to bringing services closer to the people is the establishment of an ASC in Yerky, a municipality of 5,000 inhabitants in Cherkasy Oblast, with the support of the U-LEAD with Europe programme. From the very first day it was open, Yerky’s ASC made it possible for residents to receive a range of services in a small population centre following a real-life model in a single visit, without going to the county capital. This included registration of birth, registration of the child’s domicile, and filing an application for maternity benefits. So even with limited IT capacity, the quality of services can be significantly improved.
ASCs are also having a positive impact on business because they provide many services for companies, including the registration of a business, property and land. Addressing personal needs of both entrepreneurs and employees through the ASC helps to improve the economic situation by saving people time and other resources.
Establishing or modernizing ASCs has a positive impact on local government in general. ASCs encourage streamlining of government structures, staffing, procedures and work processes, and encourage more efficient use of staff—or example, due to universalisation—and public resources such as premises. They also stimulate faster digitalisation and innovative solutions. For instance, a number of municipalities, after observing a high load on ASCs in the registration of domiciles, set up proper municipal registers fairly promptly and introduced internal e-cooperation to exchange information between this register and various government agencies.
The shift to service delivery via ASCs also promotes a client-oriented approach among ASC staff. They establish the standard of a public service institution, and the public can see clearly what it means “to serve people” following the ASC example.
Another key issue is whether ASCs are mandatory in every municipality. Before the Law on ASC network was passed on November 3, 2020, most municipalities had the right to do so, with the exception of former cities of oblast significance, which had this mandate since 2014. The new Law will make it mandatory for all municipalities. But, since the central government delegated this obligation to municipalities, the central government should also provide the proper conditions for its fulfilment. The first condition, then, is sufficient time to fulfil the task and the new Law stipulates a three-year timeframe with differentiation for three kinds of municipalities.
The second condition is sufficient financial resources. On one hand, this means considerable one-time investments into infrastructure— adequate accessible premises, furnishings, equipment, IT, and so on—, basically provided by the central government through special programmes and subventions. On the other, setting up ASCs and, more importantly, keeping them operating effectively and delivering quality services, requires that local budgets have sufficient stable revenues. The central government can ensure this, first of all, by introducing appropriate compensation, that is, reasonable administrative fees for the many services that are still provided either free of charge or for an unreasonably low fee.
The U-LEAD with Europe Programme monitored ASCs in 25 municipalities participating in its competition, where the average population was 13,000 and the average staff at an ASC was 7. It showed that 4 municipalities received local budget revenues between UAH 100,000 and UAH 200,000 per year, around €3,300-6,700 for the provision of administrative services in 2019, and another 7 municipalities received even less than that. Ukraine needs to approve the Law on Administrative Fees.
One of the reasons why policy makers decided that municipalities should be obliged to establish an ASC was an attempt to address the issue of access to services as municipalities and counties expanded. An alternative solution that provides local governments with greater incentive and flexibility could be more effective and less time-consuming to implement. The central government needs to delegate powers to municipalities, at least relating to the most common and relatively straightforward services. This approach has proved to be successful with the registration of domicile, property and business. The same policy can be applied to the delivery of other clusters of services—registering civil acts and applying for social services being the top priority. It is easier for local governments to provide services themselves rather than getting approvals for everything from government agencies, which requires resources and makes communities endlessly dependent. And it is much easier and faster to incorporate additional services under local government authority into an existing ASC network.
A top priority for 2020-2021 regarding the mandatory establishment of ASCs is the issue of “switching” the ASCs under county state administrations in the old counties to ASCs under local government agencies. Ukrainians are already used to these service access points, and it is critical that decentralisation reform not make things worse—even in the short-run.
Translated by Lidia Alexandra Wolanskyj
All terms in this article are meant to be used neutrally for men and women
Viktor Tymoshchuk has participated at the International Expert Exchange, "Development of Municipalities: trust, institutions, finance and people", organized by U-LEAD with Europe Programme in December 2020. His speech delivered during one of the workshops is to a great extent depicted in this article.
In the name of the U-LEAD with Europe Programme, we would like to express our great appreciation and thanks for both inputs of Mr. Tymoshchuk. The article will be included in future online publication Compendium of Articles.
Compendium of Articles is a collection of papers prepared by policymakers, Ukrainian and international experts, and academia after International Expert Exchange 2019 and 2020, organized by U-LEAD with Europe Programme. The articles raise questions in the fields of decentralisation reform and regional and local development, relevant for both the Ukrainian and the international audience. The Compendium will be published online in Ukrainian and English languages on the U-LEAD online recourses. Please, follow us on Facebook to stay informed about the project.
If you have any comments or questions about the Compendium of articles or this article in particular, please contact Yaryna Stepanyuk firstname.lastname@example.org.
This publication has been produced with the assistance of the European Union and its member states Germany, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Estonia and Slovenia. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of its authors and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the U-LEAD with Europe Programme, the government of Ukraine, the European Union and its member states Germany, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Estonia and Slovenia.
 Please, note that the article was finalized in early 2020 and depicts situation in the country as of that time.
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