On the way to building a service state
Over the last decade the culture of communication between citizens and officials in Ukraine has begun to actively develop and gradually move to a new quality level. Despite significant progress, the fight against bureaucracy in the area of provision of administrative services is still ongoing. What problem we have and how to solve them?
By signing the Association Agreement with the European Union, Ukraine has demonstrated its commitment to raising the living standards of Ukrainians. They include a conceptually new quality of public service and an adequate level of communication culture between the administration and citizens and business.
During the first years after Ukraine gained independence, living conditions of Ukrainians where defined by the fact that the state did not care about them. Endless bureaucracy, long queues, reception in inaesthetic and inappropriate premises, rudeness of officials, and limited reception hours – this is all that citizens encountered when they had to contact with the state.
However, over the last decade, the culture of communication between citizens and officials in Ukraine has begun to actively develop and gradually move to a new quality level. In particular, it has to do with the provision of administrative services (registration of business, real estate, residence, issuance of passports, etc.).
Just 10 years ago, the country's first integrated office (“one-stop-shop”) was opened for all categories of consumer services in Vinnytsia. It is similar to the German "burgerburo" and the Dutch "publieksservice". Long reception hours, facilities for people with disabilities, electronic queue, information terminals, comfortable waiting area, and office-free service area (open space) with friendly staff – all this has become a reality for the city's residents. Further, such initiatives of the municipalities brought the same good results in other Ukrainian cities – Ivano-Frankivsk, Lutsk, Lugansk and others. And in 2013, after the adoption of the Law "On Administrative Services", the creation of such integrated offices as the Centers for the Provision of Administrative Services (CPAS) became mandatory for large cities and districts. Currently, there are more than 700 such offices. In accordance with the law, the CPASs operate at least seven hours a day, five days a week and have no lunch break. As the Law allows to work longer, many CPASs in big cities provide services for about 55 hours per week.
Many CPASs have decided not to stick to the minimum requirements and they are introducing new improvements that have long been customary for EU countries. They establish POS terminals that allow customers to pay immediately at the place of ordering the service, set up self-service areas for visitors, where each client gets access to the computer with Internet connection and can print the necessary information or application form, or make an order. Some centers have created mobile applications for ordering online services directly from a smartphone. Free Wi-Fi is available in almost every CPAS.
More and more services are now being provided online. So, with the help of the Internet you can register the birth of a child, apply for a housing subsidy, get an extract from the Register of Legal Entities and Entrepreneurs, etc.
With the assistance of the EU program, the first "CPAS on wheels" was launched in Ukraine. It is a special car that is fully equipped for administrators and visitors. Such a CPAS will provide services directly in remote villages on the basis of inter-municipal cooperation. More than 70 CPASs have been opened in the united territorial communities.
It is important to emphasize that the CPAS is convenient for citizens not so much a good equipment, but first and foremost because it provides all the most popular services among citizens. Therefore, many of the CPASs became focused on the availability of the maximum number of services and the provision of complex services at the occurrence of a vital event (birth of a child, relocation, marriage, etc.). For example, in many CPASs, a person can register the birth of a child, her/his place of residence, and immediately request social assistance related to her/his birth, to order a foreign passport for a child, etc.
However, despite significant progress, the fight against bureaucracy in the area of provision of administrative services is still ongoing. Unfortunately, not all of the CPASs are fully in line with European standards. In addition, far from all administrative services are provided through such "transparent offices". In particular, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine and the State Migration Service (SMS) prefer to provide separate services in their own offices (car registration, issuance of driver's license and passport). The Ministry of Justice still has not transferred services on the registration of civil status acts (registration of birth, marriage, death) to local self-government authorities in cities. The public seems to have the impression that the aforementioned ministries and agencies do this because of their own benefits. After all, they created and facilitated the legalization of their enterprises, where the services of the Ministry of Justice and the SMS are provided quickly and comfortably, but for an additional fee – which, in addition to anything else, is illegal. CPASs face difficulties in integrating these services, although the government generally declares the need for integration of these services with the CPAS.
Another problem in this area is the absence of a law on administrative fees in Ukraine, and it leads to the fact that the amounts of payments for administrative services are set by numerous legal acts and often several different and non-transparent payments appear instead of one. For some types of services the payment is too high, for others – unreasonably low or absent at all.
Despite the great progress in providing infrastructure support to administrative services, the Ukrainian authorities do not pay enough attention to the legal regulation of the procedural and legal aspects of the interaction of the administration with individuals. In particular, in Ukraine there is no law on the general administrative procedure, which leads to the adoption of administrative acts without the participation of interested parties. This often forces citizens to turn to radical actions (protest actions against constructions, etc.). Administrative authorities do not communicate with citizens before adopting a negative act that affects their rights and legitimate interests.
In summary, in the coming years, Ukrainian public policy in the area of public administration should be focused on the following key tasks: the transfer of basic administrative services from central authorities to communities in order to bring these services geographically closer and provide them through integrated offices; adoption of the law on administrative fees; adoption of the law on the general administrative procedure.
Consequently, after the implementation of these reforms, Ukraine will become a truly service-oriented state.
Expert of the Centre of Policy and Legal Reform,