The offices “One Point for Services” that were opened in Skopje, Kumanovo, Ohrid, Bitola and Tetovo in order for the citizens to say “goodbye” to waiting at the counters, will be closed and in their place 333 counters will be opened throughout the branches of Macedonian Post. Until yesterday, government officials promoted it as a “successful project”, and even in front of other countries they boasted that in “less than a minute” citizens were served with documents in one place, and after the State Audit Office gave them a “cold shower” announcing that these offices actually issued very few documents, it was announced that they would be closed. Portalb.mk proves how this project, promoted and constantly praised, did not actually work. The data published by Portalb.mk show that in one year, only 1,062 documents were issued throughout North Macedonia.
“One Point for Services” is a project of the Ministry of Information Society and Administration (MISA) which was announced since 2017, and the first office was opened four years ago, i.e. in 2019 at the time when in charge of the ministry was Damjan Mancevski in Zoran Zaev prime minister’s office
Through the following analysis, Portalb.mk proves how this project, promoted and constantly praised, did not actually work. The energy and resources spent on this project would probably be more useful if they were invested in real reforms in the administration and citizens would not see the “illusions” of government officials when in front of the media they get “certificates of work experience” in a minute, while they wait for hours in front of the counters.
In 2021, Portalb.mk tested getting documents from them and noticed that “One Point for Services” does not mean that the citizen receives the necessary documents from one counter, but rather in one building there are several institutions where they have counters and citizens must wait separately at each of them to get the document.
Catastrophic data on offices “One Point for Services”
In March this year, the State Audit Office published the audit report on “Reforms in Public Administration”, in which they also audited the project “One Point for Services”, where according to it these offices issued only 1,062 documents in 1 year.
The report states that initially citizens could receive 10 services, but later, despite the announcements of government officials to increase the number of services, they reduced this number to 7. They also report on the small number of documents issued by these offices, i.e. from June 2021 to June 2022, only 1,062 documents were issued.
Meanwhile, from June 2022 to April 2023, a slight increase in the number of issued documents was recorded i.e. 1,901 documents. Namely, the Offices in Skopje issued 520 documents and offered over 5,000 pieces of information, in Tetovo 100 documents and over 600 pieces of information, in Kumanovo 600 documents and over 2,500 pieces of information, in Bitola 556 documents and over 1,200 pieces of information and in Ohrid 125 documents and over 300 pieces of information.
If the number of employees is divided by the number of issued documents, it turns out that each employee issued 82 documents in 1 year or 6.8 documents per month, or separately by city:
- In Skopje: 4 employees have issued 130 documents each for one year or 10.8 documents per month
- In Tetovo: 9 employees have issued 11.1 documents each for one year or 0.92 documents per month
- In Kumanovo: 6 employees have issued 100 documents each for one year or 8.3 documents per month
- In Bitola: 5 employees have issued 111.2 documents each for one year or 9.2 documents per month
- In Ohrid: 4 employees have issued 31.25 documents each for one year or 2.6 documents per month
2017-2019 – Pompous promotion “Goodbye to waiting at counters”
The promotion of these offices took place on 20th of February 2019, when in a pompous way the entire government cabinet headed by the prime minister Zaev, opened the first office in Skopje. Government officials announced that citizens will now be able to receive services in one place from 10 institutions and will say “goodbye” to waiting at counters.
The goal will be achieved when every citizen throughout the country will be able to have a high-quality public service” – said Zaev at the promotion.
“Our goal is to change the image of public administration by changing the way citizens and companies receive services. This is just the beginning” – said minister Mancevski.
As stated by government officials, it was planned to provide 10 services from different institutions – the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Transport and Communications, the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, the Registry Office, the Agency for Real Estate Cadastre, the Agency for Employment, the Public Revenue Office, the Pension and Disability Insurance Fund, the Health Insurance Fund and the Central Registry.
Minister Manchevski constantly praised the project, while the opening of offices in other cities was expected. On 16th of June, 2020, he said that “One Point for Services” is an example of how one hall offers public services to citizens, according to the latest standards.
“The counters are a thing of the past, the workers work in a friendly atmosphere, and the citizens will not be part of the long queues at the counters” said Manchevski.
On 22nd of June, 2020 the “One Point for Services” office started working, where during the visit, minister Manchevski said that the idea is to have no waiting.
2020-2021 – Opening of new offices, investment instead of machines for issuing documents (documentomats)
With the departure of Manchevski from SDSM, in to the position of minister, in September 2020, came Jeton Shaqiri from DUI.
Four months after his arrival as minister, i.e. at the end of January 2021 he participated in the promotion of the office for “One Point for Services” in Kumanovo, together with the mayor, Maksim Dimitrievski.
“…This service point enables citizens to receive services and information from state and public institutions. I personally requested two types of documents from different institutions and instead of going to seek service in two institutions, I saved time and I was served at this office in a very short time” said minister Shaqiri during the visit to Kumanovo.
On 16th of April 2021, during a meeting with the mayor of Struga, Ramiz Merko, minister Shaqiri announced the opening of the office “One Point for Services” in Struga as well.
“The mayor Ramiz Merko, has provided the space for the offices of “One Point for Services” in the premises of the municipality of Struga. After the completion of the provision of spaces, we will speed up the procedures and try to have this point ready in a short time, in order to provide quality services to the citizens of Struga as soon as possible. At this point, citizens of Struga will be able to receive services from different institutions at a single counter” announced Shaqiri.
However, this office was not opened.
On 5th of June 2021, in an interview for Portalb.mk, the minister announced the installation of several machines for issuing of documents (documentomats) in several locations to replace the “One point for service”, in order to save resources.
“We have foreseen the provision of documentomats, which we promoted. During 2021, we have foreseen the installation of three documentomats that will replace “One Point for Services”, because within the framework of “One Point for Services”, in addition to investments, we also have human resources, employed workers and their expansion to the entire territory will affect the increase of employees in the ministry. Documentomats also replace the workforce, but at the same time they must be maintained so that the documents can be obtained,” said Shaqiri in the interview for Portalb.mk on 5th of June 5 2021.
On 17th of June 2021 the office “One Point for Services” was also opened in Bitola, where Minister Shaqiri, together with the mayor of the municipality Natasha Petrovska and other officials were visiting the city.
During the visit, the mayor of the municipality got a certificate of work experience.
This confirms that we are talking about a time in which this country, with this government and these policies, is making a serious step forward in the digitization of services to citizens and in the direction of recognition in the world of how a society should function”, said Mayor Natasha Petrovska.
Shaqiri said that they plan to open similar centers in all cities in the country with a population of over 25,000 inhabitants, such as Strumica, Struga, Veles, Gostivar etc.
In August 2021, “One Point for Services” was also opened in Ohrid, where during the visit, Minister Shaqiri pointed out that they intend to turn this center into a very frequented location where Ohrid residents will receive the requested services.
In September 2021, on the recommendation of the Government, the announced installation of documentomats, i.e. devices for issuing documents, was stopped, due to strengthening of “One Point Service” offices.. Instead of documentomats, the Government should have invested the funds in the portal for electronic services and in the project with Macedonian Post, whereby “One Point for Services” counters would be opened in their branches. And hence the announcement about setting up counters in the branches of the Macedonian Post.
2022 – We boasted to the Bulgarians that the documents can be obtained in one minute
In January 2022, Dimitar Kovacevski, became the Primeminister, after the resignation of Zoran Zaev. Minister Shaqiri moved to the head of the Ministry of Education, and his post was replaced by the Minister Admirim Aliti from Alternativa.
Aliti continued to support these offices.
On 4th of April 2022, Minister Aliti together with the Deputy Prime Minister for Good Governance Policies and colleagues from the Bulgarian delegation, led by the Deputy Prime Minister for Good Governance of Bulgaria, Kalina Konstatinova visited the office “One Point for Services” in Skopje, where they were informed about its functionality.
The Deputy Prime Minister Grkovska, who herself tried the procedure for issuing a document from the counters, emphasized that the “one-stop system” offers opportunities for a quick and efficient application for receiving more than 70 services from different institutions, in just one place.
Like the mayor of Bitola, Grkovska got a certificate of work experience.
“Through this system, I received my document today in less than a minute – Certificate of work expereience”, boasted Grkovska in front of the Bulgarian colleagues.
Aliti, in an interview for the local television station TV Plus, on 29th of June, 2022 stated that the citizens of Kumanovo use the services of “One Point for Services”.
“Our conclusion is that a large number of citizens do not even know that these service points exist. I think that as a ministry we should do more to inform citizens what these service points are, that is, what services they are offering. We have our employees at those points, they are at the service of the citizens, that is, every citizen can go to a service point and ask for the specific service, and our employees will help them get the requested service” said Aliti.
On 3rd of August 2022 Aliti visited the office of “One Point for Services” in Tetovo where he said that this remains a very useful project.
“One Point for Services” remains one of the most useful projects of MISA, because it represents a bridge between citizens and institutions” – said Aliti.
On 11th of November 2022, the MISA state secretary visited the office of “One Point for Services” in Bitola and said that “citizens’ interest in these centers that provide around 70 services, is growing every day”.
2023 – After the failure, the opening of the “One Point for Services” counters in Macedonian Post was announced
With the departure of Alternativa from the Government, Azir Aliu from the Alliance for Albanians came to the position of minister of MISA. On Monday, 27th of February, he assumed his post, and in the meantime, on Friday, 4th of March, he paid a working visit to the three offices of “One Point for Services” in Tetovo, Bitola and Ohrid, “to get to know the staff up close and the services that these offices offer to citizens”.
The ministry did not send a statement, but the minister Aliu published a statement on Facebook, where he wrote that “I was informed by my colleagues about the progress of the work, their suggestions, remarks and ideas for the development of these centers”.
“In the conversation, I conveyed the recommendations, the readiness to jointly overcome the challenges, as well as the vision and our plans for increasing the efficiency of these services,” said Aliu.
While Aliu “scanned” the Ministry, on 16th of March this year, the State Audit Office published the audit report on “Reforms in Public Administration”, in which they also audited the project “One Point for Services”, where according to it these offices issued only 1,062 documents in 1 year.
On 24th of April 2023 during a meeting with journalists, due to the report of the State Audit Office, which emphasized the failure of these offices, he announced that they would be closed. But instead of them, in the 333 branches of Macedonian Post throughout the country, special counters will be opened where the same services will be provided to the citizens by the post office employees.
The minister announced that initially legal changes will be made so that the employees of Macedonian Post can provide the services offered by the office of “One Point for Services”, and then the employees will be trained. In places where there is a need for staff, MISA will offer assistance.
At the meeting with the journalists, he said that within six months the stickers should be placed on the counters, and in the meantime the legal changes will be made and the staff will be trained.
According to Aliu, the low level of issuing documents is due to the poor awareness of the citizens and promised that they will work to improve it.
How do the “One Point for Services” offices work?
In May 2021, Portalb.mk, within the “ICEDA” project, checked how these offices function. The Portalb.mk team closely followed a citizen who had to register his newborn and obtain a birth certificate.
- READ: Skopje, lack of digital services, parents wander around the counters to register their newborns
We went to register the newborn at the Regional Office of the Registry Office in the Municipality of Centar – Skopje. The Regional Office here operated under the “One Point for Services” system. This office, in addition to registering babies, also provides birth, death and marriage certificates, as well as other services from other institutions.
According to what we saw, the services that citizens can get at “One Point for Services” are divided into counters, and citizens wait at the counters, depending on what service they are looking for. The counters have their own identification numbers, and there is a machine that gives out ticket numbers, through which they wait for their turn.
In our case, we got a waiting ticket number at counters 4 and 5, because registration of newborns could only be done at these two counters. When we got the ticket number to wait in line, we asked the employee if there were many people ahead of us, and he told us there were three. With only three in front of us, we had to wait an hour and a half to register the newborn.
At that time, due to COVID-19, citizens were not allowed to wait inside the hall where the counters are located, but outside. A dozen more citizens were waiting with us and it was a real chaos.
Practically, at some counters there were many people waiting, and at others there were none at all, and this is exactly what “One Point for Services” means – the counters are divided in the form of “shops”, and citizens come and get the necessary services, but it creates chaos because there is more demand for some services and less for others. This does not mean that “One Point for Services” implies that the citizen goes to the counter and receives all services at the same counter, but that he goes to an institution where there are several points that provide different services and he has to wait separately at each point, if he wants to get services from several points.
Once it was our turn, the registration of the newborn took no more than 10 minutes, and the employee told us that the birth certificate can be obtained after 1 week in the Regional Office of the Registry Office – Cair.
We went to check if the birth certificate was ready, however, the staff from the Regional Office – Cair told us that the Central Office had not yet issued the citizen ID number, therefore it was not ready. We received the certificate after 10 days.
If this service was digitized, it would be completed with a few clicks in a few minutes.
This research story was prepared as part of the project “Increasing Civic Engagement in the Digital Agenda – ICEDA”, co-funded by the European Union and implemented by the Metamorphosis Foundation (North Macedonia), the Academy for e-Government (Estonia), “Mjaft!” Movement (Albania), Partners for Democratic Change Serbia (Serbia), NGO 35mm (Montenegro) and “Open Data Kosovo” (Kosovo).
This research story has been prepared with the financial support of the European Union. The content of this research story is the sole responsibility of the Metamorphosis Foundation and the authors and does not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.