Citizens’ Service Centers to tackle bureaucracy

New legislation is in the works to combat bureaucracy. The Ministry of the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization has taken initiatives to smooth the public’s contact with state services and boost efficiency by streamlining procedures, the ministry’s leadership told Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Monday in a three-hour briefing. Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos and deputy ministers Apostolos Andreoulakos and Thanassis Nakos plan to shift the burden of processing applications to Citizens’ Service Centers (KEP), sparing citizens time-consuming trips to various state departments and pointless visits to different offices while saving the economy the costs of a cumbersome state apparatus. The plans, to be implemented gradually throughout 2005, are based on speeding up administrative procedures by the use of new technology, and on the services themselves seeking the documents required for matters to be handled on behalf of members of the public. The ministers furnished the premier with a full list of action taken and future priorities. In the nine months since March, KEP have dealt with four times the workload they handled in the corresponding period of 2003. «The number of cases dealt with rose from 423,000 to 1,643,000, while the number of members of the public served rose from 356,000 to 1,316,000,» said Andreoulakos, who emphasized that the target is to make KEP a one-stop service. Also under way are the following measures: – Establishing quality and productivity directorates in all ministries and regional administrations. The requisite presidential decrees have been issued and the ministry is collaborating with the General Secretariat of Public Administration on ways of measuring the output and efficiency of public services; – Promotion of a complete computer system for the State Registry, which is part of the Information Society initiative and is aimed at establishing a compatible computer environment for the registry and other state services it cooperates with (such as consulates, KEP and local government organizations); – Organization of a Coupling System to network the whole state sector; – Submission to Parliament of regulation reform that already has approval from the government committee and a draft law on «quality control of legislation and regulatory reform» which is aimed at avoiding overlapping laws; – Planning of a second three-year stage in the Politeia program (2004-2006) for qualitative improvements to public administration both in internal organization and operation and in provision of services. Initiatives to boost meritocracy, productivity and transparency in public administration include: – Improving the staff appointment system by boosting and expediting Staff Selection Council (ASEP) procedures; – Changing the system of evaluating and selecting managerial staff; – Amending the employees’ code so as to evaluate performance and create productivity incentives; – Reorganizing the status of part-time employment, mainly for the provision of social services, by passing Law 3250/ 2004. The initial implementation of part-time work was well-received by local government organizations, with 875 municipalities and communities filing operational plans for 10,369 positions; * Helping all small and medium-sized businesses (which employ 7-10 workers) in all sectors and including OTA enterprises, to update and acquire advanced computer systems and equipment. This support, to the tune of some 14.5 million euros, will be available following a decision by the interior and economy ministers in the next few days.