Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Businesses want the state administration to enter the 21st century

Adelina Marini, September 10, 2010

Probably it won't be surprise for anybody that businesses insist on having the possibility to file any documents to the state administration via the Internet, as well as to be able to use a fast procedure for all public services the state or local administrations provide, even if that would cost more. The major motive - time is money. This becomes even clearer thanks to a poll among the member of the Bulgarian Trade Industrial Chamber, made in August and based upon questionnaires. The results of the poll show that the companies' greatest problem is the lack of a link among the existing public registers, the lack of "one stop" service and non-keeping of deadlines for administrative service.

60 per cent of the respondents had requested unified and interconnected centralised information systems. Half of the respondents want a suspension of the practice the administration not to be held responsible for non-precise execution or no execution at all of its obligations. For 38 per cent the impossibility of being serviced online is a problem. As with the same poll in 2006, this year's poll also shows that the lack of transparency in the work of the state administration is a serious problem, especially in terms of the procedures for public procurement auctions, concessions, etc.

The results of the poll of the Chamber are accompanied by the most telling comments of companies, related to bad experience in working with administration. The most frequent complaint is that the issue of a document, which takes seconds to be printed out, is actually to be waited for days. "A good example is the tax office in Vrabnitsa: in order to get a taxation estimation we have to fulfill a declaration for the land, which is being verified by the municipality - which is on another address and takes 14 days. From there we sent back because the forms are to be taken from the tax office. In spite the fact that there is an option for a fast procedure, there is no fast verification of the land declaration. And in order to get the verification you need a scheme, a verification of the scheme, which also takes 14 days but the officer in charge is on a vacation, so we were told to go there after a month", a claimant says.

And more: "With the modern technologies it is possible a document to be issued in 5 minutes - for example the declaration for indebtedness towards the Treasury, instead of us waiting for 7 days. This is an occasion for corruption too. I don't mind paying higher fee for a fast procedure, which should be available for any document. We go and beg the officers in the tax office like beggars with presents in bags. There are some who are very cooperative but you can't rely on this".

"On the other hand, the lack of a good mechanism for assessment of the work of the officers and, respectively, binding their payment with concrete results, is something on which the government has to work urgently. The meaning of such feedback systems, like the one in the Targovishte municipality (with an award from the European Institute for Public Administration), is being ignored and it is the key to reorganising, recognising the "consumer" factors", another one says.

Most comments are angry and unwilling to accept that in the 21st century the administration works the way it did 20 years ago: dragging you here and there for piles of documents which could be sent inter-institutionally for seconds electronically; the asking for paper copies of tens of documents, the expedience of which is not clear but is imposed by regulations, rules and other orders.

It is also of no surprise that many companies want the administration to be reduced by 70% and then gradually younger and well educated officers to be employed. "The state administration should be trained in such a way that it would understand that if it is not for the business and the citizens it would not exist. Now the communist practice is being applied - a fight for a position, to appoint "our boy or girl" and then party all over, meaning irresponsibility before people and nation".

In fact the bad news from this poll is that the results are not much different from those of previous polls. This means that in spite of the a lot of talking about optimisation of the state administration, of reforms, of spending cuts, even a small step has not been made towards achieving more effectiveness. More effectiveness would mean not just facilitating businesses, but also more tax revenues, more business activity and more transparency from both sides - the administration and the business.

In all - things, written in the economic books. Obviously, however, in Bulgaria it is being perceived as easier to watch and see whether the Greek scenario would be repeated in Bulgaria (large part of which is due exactly to the huge and ineffective state administration), rather than undertaking drastic reforms even if this would mean hundreds of people to be sacked. Besides, computers do not take bribes, do they?!