No matter the country, anyone seeking to have a document officialized (such as a driver’s license, marriage permit or deed to a property), is going to face at least one visit to a notary office that could last anything from an hour to the majority of a day.
In Uzbekistan’s case, the process of buying a house could require at least two visits to a notary office, after which a person may still be denied their request if it’s determined that they have utility service debts, or other restrictions imposed by the Enforcement Bureau (EB).
And naturally, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown have clearly presented the inherent shortcomings of an exclusively face-to-face service.
What the E-SUD system has done in Uzbekistan for accessing justice, the E-Notary system has done for the process of seeking legal approvals and authorizations, reflecting the 2017-2021 Development Strategy’s commitment to improving government services in a way that better meets the public’s needs.
Launched in April 2019 by the Ministry of Justice with support of the ‘Public Administration Reforms and Digital Transformation’ project of UNDP and the Ministry for Development of Information Technologies and Communications, the E-Notary portal will eventually bring the entirety of public notary services online.
Setting up the E-Notary service
Services available through the E-Notary portal are currently being refined, with a number of requests being made fully online including car rentals and driver’s license renewals, while others like claim inheritance or purchasing or selling real estate, have to be carried out in person and need a notary appointment.
Where services cannot be provided only online, remote services are possible in cases where parties are in different physical locations in Uzbekistan. In this case parties would still have to visit notary offices but wouldn’t need to travel across the country for an appointment.
During the COVID-19 period the E-Notary portal has helped to minimize the physical interactions of people with notaries by providing full and detailed information about notary services online. The numbers of purchase and sale contracts have increased from 2,000 in April to 9,000 in May, while also during lockdown there was a substantial number of car license renewal requests including 3,852 from the Samarkand Province and 3,418 from Tashkent City.
One of the E-Notary system’s most useful features are expected to be those related to the sale and purchase of real estate. Currently the rules around real estate purchasing have changed, with people outside Tashkent being able to purchase property within the city without needing to put names of their relatives or acquaintances within the city on the deed.
A notary service to help citizen
The establishment of the E-notary portal has taken place in parallel with a national push to establish a private notary system, as planned by the Ministry of Justice, and supported by the law established in January 2020, which allows for the phased transfer of notary services to non-state providers.
The creation of a competitive market for notary services is expected to enhance the availability of notaries from one notary per 41,000 people to one per 34,000 people, while saving 400 billion Soum (or approximately 39 million USD), which was previously spent on a public notaries system.
“As a result of a shift to a private notary system it is expected that citizens will no longer need to wait for notaries, but rather notaries will wait for citizens,” shared Ministry of Justice press secretary Sevara Urinbaeva. “It is estimated that by the end of 2020, about 1,000 private notaries will start private practice in the republic.
Other efforts have been put in place to make it easier to access notary help. For example, mandatory notarization for certain types of transactions has been removed, while certain requirements have been eliminated for certifying contracts of alienation, property rentals, the gratuitous use of property, and the process of certifying these transactions.
“The E-Notary portal will directly complement the efforts to privatize Uzbekistan’s notary service, for instance by providing a database of notaries sorted by location and specialization,” said Janbolat Baltabaev, Head of Department at the Center of Legal Informatization, Ministry of Justice.
Currently, the Ministry of Justice is planning further enhancing the e-notary platform to enable delivery of notary services in a fully digital manner. The next version of the system will make it possible for users to submit all the necessary documents online without visiting the notary’s office. The notaries in their turn will check the documents and consult the citizens on their cases online to further proceed with notarizing the transactions. Of course, this process will be gradual and some sensitive services, such as change of property ownership rights, will still be notarized in person.