By Sandro Rochikashvili, Analytic of IDFI
On October 1st a meeting was held for the purpose of defining the updated priorities for the 2014-2015 within the frameworks of the “Open Government Partnership”, initiated by the Interdepartmental Anti-Corruption Council and organized by the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information within the frameworks of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Good Governance in Georgia (G-3) program. During the meeting the participants discussed the completion of the 2012-2013 action plan and analyzed the shortcoming of the process. To define the vision of 2014-2015 participation of Georgia in the initiative, the recommendations of the NGOs were also presented during the meeting.
Representatives of seven different public institutions gave presentation on the topic of the involvement of their respective institutions in the completion of the Open Government Partnership action plan. These were: Competition and State Procurement Agency, Data Exchange Agency, Civil Service Bureau, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Public Service Hall, Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs, and State Services Development Agency.
Within the frameworks of the Open Government Partnership recommendations and Resolution #775 of the Government of Georgia, the Competition and State Procurement Agency took the responsibility of making the electronic system of state procurements as user-friendly and transparent as possible.
The Agency made significant efforts towards this goal. The reformed procurement system is now fully electronic, as opposed to paper, which offers greater transparency, reliable data, elimination of discrimination and better competition. Since 1st September, 2010, the Georgian Electronic Government Procurement System (Ge-GP) made possible the transition from paper tenders to 100% e-tenders.
A Dispute Resolutions Board was also created on 10th of December, 2010. The board has an equal representation of public and state representatives in decision making and can be easily addressed by regular users if they have complaints regarding the tenders.
The Data Exchange Agency primarily worked on developing the citizen’s portal my.gov.ge in the frameworks of the initiative. As the name suggests, the portal is a compilation of state services for the citizens, all in one space. As such, it gives easy access to state services in different areas, ranging from personal data management to healthcare, education, and property.
Some parts of the portal are still under construction.
At the meeting, the representative of the Civil Service Bureau, Tamta Tsotskhalashvili, the Head of the Reforms and Development Department, talked about the electronic declarations system for public servants, which is an important part of the Government’s efforts towards greater transparency. Public servants fill their property declarations on the website www.declaration.gov.ge, about 3000 people in total.
The improvement of the electronic declarations system was one of the cornerstones of the recommendations sent earlier this year to various public institutions by the civil society, and the Civil Service Bureau stated that it would implement the changes discussed below within the framework of Open Government Partnership initiative.
The main success of the system is the greater transparency of the financial activities of the public officials, as the declarations can be accessed by regular citizens. This, in turn, increases the accountability of the Government, which, along with transparency, is a central concept for the Open Government Partnership.
The Civil Service Bureau is actively researching methods and mechanisms for monitoring the declarations, which will further increase the effectiveness of the electronic declarations system in preventing corruption. Several models have been proposed so far, including random selection, routine overview and overview based on risks, external information or information received from public institutions.
The Bureau predicts the implementation of the monitoring system before the end of 2014. Along with this, the declarations website will become accessible from all mobile platforms, and 400 more public officials will become subject to the responsibility or filling out the declarations.
Some significant progress towards better services was made by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Specifically, in the last few years the Ministry implemented electronic proceedings of criminal cases and electronic statistics.
The project of electronic proceedings of criminal cases, the so called “Crimcase”, was in pilot version in 2011 under the coordination of the Ministry of Justice, and was fully implemented in 2012. The initial statistics module was far from perfect and had significant flaws that had to be corrected through feedback from different divisions. Even despite this the data received from the Ministry of Justice was incomplete and did not allow reaching the necessary level of quality of correctness. Thus, the Ministry of Internal Affairs ventured to develop a new system, the technical implementation of which fell to the Ministry of Justice.
The Crimcase system has significant potential for development, especially in the direction of forms and methods of visualization of the data. This is especially important as it will enable researchers to better conduct criminological studies, which is an important aspect of the development and implementation of criminal policy. The Ministry plans on focusing on schematic-graphical visualization of data, which gives intuitive representation of statistics. Interactive maps in particular are very popular in the western countries. The second stage of Crimcase is exactly the development of such an interactive criminal map for Georgia. Technical works for the creation are already complete, and the project will be implemented when the investigatory bodies of the Ministry of Internal Affairs are equipped with GPS positioning devices.
Besides this, a “Tell us how to serve you better” page was added to the website “Safe Neighborhood” of the Ministry. The project itself implies direct contact between citizens and enforcers with the purpose of reporting crimes and problems, and the new page serves as a platform for providing feedback. It contains a detailed questionnaire, where the citizens can point out which areas need more attention of the police. The same page was made an application on the official facebook page of the institution.
The Public Service Hall was possibly the most important innovation of the last two years in the direction of better and more effective delivery of public services to the citizens. The motto of the Public Service Halls is “Everything in one space”, which represents well the general idea behind these institutions. Over three hundred different services from different institutions, be it the Ministry of Education, National Archive or others, can be accessed by simply visiting one building, and they are delivered as swiftly and effectively as possible. Eight Public Service Halls have been opened so far across the country, including the capital, Tbilisi, and more are under construction.
Since recently the Public Service Halls provide even better services with their JustDrive program, which enables citizens to access the services of the Public Service Halls without even leaving their cars, and the JustCafe, where the citizens can both file requests and receive prepared documents. The Halls have also recently created a hotline, active 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
For the future, the Public Service Halls plan to further refine the processes of providing their services, integrate more state and private services, prepare the concept of the Halls for export, and engage in different state projects.
The Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs mostly spoke about innovations in the healthcare system, both already implemented and planned for the future. The representative of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Social Affairs offered two presentations. In one of the these, the representative of the Ministry emphasized preventive care rather than only simple curing, which is largely based on gathering data. This will also help make the patients better informed to make choices.
The main point of the Ministry’s policy towards better services is the development and implementation of the electronic health records system, which will make data about patients accessible to clinicians, which will in turn improve care provided by them. The archive will be compliant to international standards and contain all kinds of useful data, including patient records, business intelligence, integration of eHealth services, etc.
The integrated patient record system will enable document imaging for medical records, medical image sharing and management and will contain a virtual patient information repository. The Ministry also plans to make the electronic health records accessible from different mobile platforms, with instant access to data like prescriptions issued to citizens accessed on phone, data pulled from HIP, GPS and maps linked to dispensary locations. It will also enable contactless payments and storage of receipts directly on the mobile device. All in all, a significant improvement in the ease of access to services provided by medical institutions throughout the country.
The Ministry lists the plans to construct more hospitals and reorganize and integration IT as the main point of 2013, the testing of pilot systems and implementation for 2014 and creation of a patient portal for 2015.
The State Services Development Agency, as outlined in their presentation, mainly occupied itself with projects directed at regional development within the frameworks of the Open Government Partnership. The main purpose of these projects was to increase the effectiveness of local self-governments through the implementation of e-governance and encouragement of public engagement in decision-making. Three main projects have been designed to these ends: development of civil centers, implementation of e-governance in local self-governments, and development of public libraries.
The Civil Centers, much like Public Service Halls, are designed to provide important services within a single space. About two hundred different services can be accessed without leaving the village, both from public and private institutions, including banking, mobile and insurance services and those provided by LEPL “State Services Development Agency”, LEPL “Civil Registry National Agency” and others. The Centers also provide free internet and computer services, as well as conference, presentation and other means. Municipal services can be accessed at the local community level.
Apart from this, for the purpose of raising the awareness of the general public, trainings were held for the local communities, consultations in various areas (agriculture, business, etc.) and civic events (photo galleries, exhibitions, book presentation, etc.), and a modern electronic library was created.
A total of twelve villages across Georgia were selected for the initial implementation of the projects, with several new ones selected for the future.
The State Services Development Agency, in cooperation with the Civil Registry National Agency, developed an electronic system for the management of services and criminal proceedings, with six municipalities selected for the implementation of the pilot project. The municipal services’ management program contains ten general processes focused on management of property and criminal cases, research of municipal priorities and social assistance.
The last of the mentioned projects, the development of public libraries, is not yet being implemented. Initially listed as a responsibility of the Ministry of Education and Science in the initial recommendation of the civil society, the project was instead taken over by the Agency. Planned activities include the renovation and equipment for 3-5 libraries, providing the pilot libraries with modern literature and informational sources, training the librarians in using modern technologies and providing services.
Another project is the development of electronic signatures, which will significantly simplify all process and services and save both time and financial resources.
Participants of the meetings also discussed the eleven priorities for the 2014-2015 action plan of Georgia for the fight against corruption, five of which are closely interlinked with the goals of the Open Government Partnership initiative. These are:
− Priority 2. Prevention of corruption in civil service;
− Priority 3. Openness, accessibility of public information and engagement of the general public in the fight against corruption;
− Priority 4. Education and raising the awareness of the general public with the purpose of preventing corruption;
− Priority 7. Guaranteeing transparency and decreasing the risks of corruption in the sphere of public financing and state procurements;
− Priority 9. Prevention of corruption in regards to the private sector.
The annual summit of the Open Government Partnership is held on 31 October-1 November in London, UK, where the Director of IDFI, Giorgi Kldiashvili, as the representative of the civil society of Georgia, will talk about proactive disclosure of public information, the main achievement of the CSOs and the Government within the frameworks of the Open Government Partnership.