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The formation of a consistent service delivery policy

Written by Alexandra Theodosiadi on .

catching formsThe policy for service delivery is a horizontal policy cutting vertically across sectoral policies and involving all the administration levels. However its limits are not clearly determined since up to now service delivery policy is not defined by law but exists in ad hoc structures and procedures resulting in the absence of a structured policy that shall stipulate the relation between the state, the citizens and the clients/businesses. The absence of such a policy is indicative of the general absence of discourse about the definition of the service delivery policy and aiming to the formation of a structured policy that would meet the current needs.

The success of the creation and operation of the CitizensService Centres (CSCs) highlights this deficit. In the absence of an organized policy and given the existence of a need that has never found the right place and time to be expressed in a coordinated way, the creation and function of the CSCs has been a reference point for the relations between state and citizens. CSCs were designed to provide services to citizens, sparing them the obscure procedures, long waits, endless corridors and replacing them with a friendly environment offering immediate personalized service. They managed to link their name with prompt, easy and fast service delivery. Nonetheless the absence of a coordinated policy puts CSC existence at risk, since today CSCs face problems regarding staffing, infrastructure and financing.

More particularly, based on 2010 data, there are today 1067 functioning CSCs, only 40% of which are housed on state property, while the rest 60% are accommodated in rented premises. CSC staff amounts to 4.460 employees; of these, 53% are public servants specializing in processing citizen affairs, 10% work on contract and are therefore temporary staff and 36% are municipal employees, seconded to the CSCs to cover the increased demands. Total estimated costs of CSCs reached the amount of 72,217,012 € for financial year 2010, namely approximately 5,000 € monthly expenses each.

On these restricted resources, CSCs go through a large number of procedures. This number has doubled within five years, as presented in the following table.ικασιών ανά έτος

 Number of procedures per year

Έτος

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

Αρ.διαδικασιών

1.637.186

2.296.959

3.112.545

3.462.543

3.674.093

3.174.634[1]

 [1] This number does not include the procedures regarding the issue of AMKAs (Social security number) processed through CSCs

Attempts constantly are made to add new services to the CSC list (CSC as One-Stop-Shops for business start-up and Points of Single Contact/ PSC for licensing service providers) and there are also plans for their transformation (in e-CSC) since the CSCs appear to be the only structure with service delivery as their sole function.

Considering the above it is obvious that the most successful intervention in the area of service providing administration is at risk. As time passed CSCs wereabandoned”: their performance was checked in a perfunctory way by the central administration which never got down to estimating CSC efficiency versus the required resources, while CSCs were managed by the local authorities with ad hoc criteria. Moreover CSCs were never systematically organised or advertised in order to become attractive to the business world, even though they could provide services to businesses and therefore contribute to reducing administrative burdens and bureaucracy to the benefit both of the administration and the businesses. On the contrary, they mostly provide municipality certificates and they generally perform a limited range of administrative procedures (such as certifying the authenticity of signatures and issuing birth certificates).  

Finding the root of the problem should not be limited to the CSC management model but should continue one level below, since it regards the essence and content of the policy. What is required here is to investigate the needs and the requirements of the social systems and then to create the desired model of service delivery, using successful practices and discarding unsatisfactory approaches. It is therefore significant, before launching into reforms, to invite a fruitful consultation with the participation of all interested parties (administration, citizens and businesses, in this case) that shall indicate the desired policy limits and the requirements of all the agents involved. The result shall be the co-formation of a space and policy that shall not go from the “state” to the “citizen” but shall be the product of their interaction, promoting participatory decision making.

The service delivery model that shall result from the above mentioned procedure shall include a methodological proposal for the grouping of the provided services and the investigation of the necessity of their provision by public bodies. This procedure must be continuous and receive constant feedback by a cycle of ongoing consultation. This stage might highlight services that should beabandonedor passed on to alternative service delivery channels (i.e. NGOs, Public-Private Partnerships, e-services). The same consultation should also examine the alternative channels and determine the necessary guarantees in order to ensure their good function. Next, after defining service-providing administration, it is important to determine the administrative structure judged appropriate to act as a provider, taking into account the nature of the provided services and their recipients. Finally it is necessary to establish a reference system with multiple parameters, which shall meet the needs of the recipients and shall be reviewed through the consultation procedure described above.

This reference system shall establish the criteria for the evaluation and efficiency measurement in the field of service-providing administration. Each service must be evaluated with both qualitative and quantitative criteria, such as the time necessary for its processing, the cost for the citizen/businessman and for the administration, the accessibility of the necessary data, the satisfaction of the parties, the capacity and knowledge of the employees, whether and in what degree the procedures can be performed electronically. On the basis of these criteria it will be possible to create a benchmarking system that will be the tool for the policy implementation evaluation and shall constantly provide feedback for its eventual reform.

At this point, the relation between the service delivery policy and other policy sectors should be examined, as well as how the service delivery policy cuts across and exists in the other sectors but still retains its autonomy as a public policy. In every small, policy-oriented state, service providing administration must be effective, help the successful implementation of sectoral policies and contribute to the achievement of the goals set by the central administration, functioning as an area of interaction between the state and citizens/businessmen and providing feedback to the central administration, in order to integrate the potential of the social network at the maximum degree in policy design and implementation.

The weight of a service delivery policy as assistant and catalyst to development, particularly under the current economic circumstances, cannot be stressed enough. The procedure of policy formation must include and be addressed not only to the citizen but also to his eventual capacity as productive member of an economic system, as businessman. If this new approach is taken into consideration when forming the policy, combined with the current concept of service provision for citizens, this shall give a new proof that public and private transactions can be held in a trusted, transparent and supportive environment creating cohesive bonds for the economic and social system.

It is finally concluded that the current circumstances, the existence of a crisis, can be an ideal opportunity for the beginning of a consultation that shall establish a basis and requirements for a new policy and the framework of a novel administrative and socio-economic culture involving responsibility, trust, transparency and interaction of citizens and the state.

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