“Single window” for public services

18 Jul 2017

Nearly two years have passed since our first interview on establishing the system of public services provision to business entities on one-stop-shop principle. Today, it is important to review results achieved in this area and determine prospects for further development of the citizen centric service government.

Implementation of pilot "Business Facilitation Centers" in the cities of Andijan, Gulistan, Fergana and Turtkul District under the Chamber of Commerce of Uzbekistan (CCI) is an example of development and provision of services to entrepreneurs on one-stop-shop principle. This initiative was implemented in 2009-2013 with the support from the "Business Forum of Uzbekistan" - joint project of UNDP with Chamber of Commerce and industry of Uzbekistan, and utilized modern ICTs (web technologies, electronic registries, online payment systems and information portal - businessinfo.uz).

The successful pilot mechanism for rendering services to entrepreneurs was subsequently introduced in the operations of Inspections on State Registration of Business Entities, which were re-organized into “single window” centers that render public services to businesses on one-stop-shop principle.

Over the last two years, 194 “single window” centers were established in all regions and cities of the country, and are providing public services to business entities. UNDP’s joint project with CCI  "Business Forum of Uzbekistan (Phase 3)", assisted in establishing  and strengthening the legal framework to ensure operation of centers, improving material and technical base , development and approval of public service passports, necessary templates and forms of documents used in provision of public services, development of relevant job descriptions of “single window” centers’ employees.

It should be noted that introduction of administrative regulations and methodological documents helped to create the platform for streamlining the procedures, establishing a “launch pad” for their further improvement. The next step is to improve standards and move on further towards improving service provision quality. Development of passports of public services as required by Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers dated December 14, 2015 No. 358 was a positive experience in that direction.

The introduction of “single window" centers that provide 16 types of public services to entrepreneurs based on indirect contact with service providers, and abolishing the requirement to visit other government agencies, contributed to elimination of red tape and reduced the cost of doing business. Over the past period, “single window” centers provided services to over 200,000 business entities.

UNDP’s joint project with CCI "Business Forum of Uzbekistan (Phase 3)" assisted development and implementation of:

  • the “single window” centers’ Customer Relationship Management System, which provides automation of main tasks and functions performed by centers;
  • the Comprehensive Billing System to record duties and fees paid for provision of public services through the banks' cash departments or online payment systems;
  • the Automated System of State Registration of Business Entities via the Internet, which was used for registering 61,300 business entities since 1 April, 2017 8.33% of them in real time.

At the same time, business entities are still forced to apply to various government entities to commence operations. Relevant authorities do not efficiently use modern information and communication technologies in the process of issuing licenses and permits; most public services, unfortunately, are still rendered in a traditional way in paper form.

According to foreign experience, such institutions as “single window” centers operating on one-stop-shop principle play an important role in ensuring the accessibility and transparency of public services, improving the effectiveness of government agencies in providing timely assistance to business entities.

Chamber of Commerce jointly with UNDP project "Business Forum of Uzbekistan (Phase 3)" conducted a study of operations of “single window” centers in Jizzakh region and Chilanzar district of Tashkent city in April of this year, and found that business entities are expecting the "single window" centers to introduce additional information commercial services such as preparation of business plans, documents required to obtain a loan, a credit, taxation issues, leasing, acquisition of a cash register machine, etc. Staff of “single window” centers are unable to provide answers and reliable information on the above questions according to established rules of service provision, and business entities end up searching for the necessary information and advice in other places.

To address the above issues, Government made a decision to locate both “single window” centers and Business Facilitation Centers under Chamber of Commerce and industry in the same premises, and to develop a special web-portal in order to receive, process and review applications, complaints and proposals from business entities.

The front office as an important point of contact of the client with the representative of the entity that provides a public service, and representatives of business entities perceives it as a kind of administrative reception, where they interact with civil servant, waiting in a queue if necessary. Establishing of such receptions at the “single window” centers opens great opportunities for introduction of citizen-centric government. Currently, "single window" centers are focused on providing specific services for business entities that know exactly what they want, which is not always the case. Some of applicants do not know that when trying to solve one problem, they can solve the other problems as well.

At the same time, it is necessary to actively lay the foundations of a virtual office that allows businesses to work on the life cycle approach, inform a businessperson in an anticipatory manner about their rights and privileges, and offer them public and commercial services.

For example, the Presidential Decree dated April 7, 2014 prohibits from June 1, 2014, holding business entities responsible for violation of regulatory and legal acts government agencies and other authorities that regulate their relationships with business entities, if such regulations are not published on their official websites.

At the same time, a frequent change in the legislation in the sphere of entrepreneurial activity in practice leads to situations when:

- business entities find it difficult to search for websites of all government agencies and other authorities, as well as relevant sections of those websites where a certain regulatory or a legal act has been published, including amendments to them;

- there is no system, which allows monitoring of the time of placement, availability and updates of the relevant regulatory documents on the websites of the government agencies. Thus, the government agency may at any time post or remove the document from its website, which in practice is not possible to track.

The lack of integration of government agencies’ web-sites, where the regulatory and legal acts are published, as well as failure to simultaneously make them available in the virtual ‘cabinet of entrepreneur’, which was created in accordance with Presidential Resolution dated April 15, 2014, does not allow business entities to track the new legal acts entering into force, the time and date of receipt of the document in their cabinet, as well as of other business-related documents, messages, notifications related to the business entity sent by government agency.

It is important to  implement in practice the tool to inform business entities of information on the adopted legal act with access to its full text through the virtual "cabinet of entrepreneur ", including the relevant notifications of government agencies.

In this regard, transfer of the administrative reception (the premises of “single window” centers) from public service system to the category of institutions operating on the principles of public-private partnership is a viable next step. It will reduce the burden on the public entities, improve efficiency and thereby reduce the number of staff of relevant government institutions. In the long term, it is possible to introduce budgeting and incentives systems on the basis of government contracts for establishing and operating such administrative receptions, and leave the civil service in its traditional form at the central government institutions (ministries) that develop policy on strategic issues, improving their attractiveness by strengthening social guarantees for their staff.

The UNDP joint project "Business Forum of Uzbekistan (Phase 3)” can assist national partners in conceptualizing, discussing and implementing the above proposals.

 

Author: Bakhodir Bekov, "Business Forum of Uzbekistan (Phase 3)” Project Manager

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