Aliti: Our priority is the reform of the administration and digitalization of the services in RNM
The Minister of Information Society and Administration, Admir Aliti, in an interview with Portalb.mk, talks about the reform process of the public administration of North Macedonia. He says that the main priority as a Ministry is the digitalization of services but also the adoption of some laws that will enable a more efficient reorganization of the administration.
What happens to the process of reorganizing the administration? It is a process that has been dragging on for more than two years. What is the plan for the institutions which are to be merged?
It is true that there is a Law on Reorganization of Institutions, and it has not changed since 1991 when it was created. This is one of the reasons why this law should be changed, but the main reason for its change is the fact that in North Macedonia we have two or three institutions that perform the same activity. Also, according to the analysis, we have institutions that do not bring any added value to the administration system. The idea of this law is to merge the institutions with similar activities into one and to abolish the institutions that are irrelevant in this system. As a ministry, we prepared a draft law and adopted the information about it a month ago at a government session. According to the plan, in the next two or three months, we will have public debates, and there will be some changes that could come to us from other institutions, mainly from the ministries because the idea is for all institutions to be under the ministry that creates the laws for that institution. The plan is for the law to be submitted to the Assembly by the end of July, and then it will be up to the MPs to pass the law.
Where can we see the plan for this reorganization, is it publicly available?
We hope that, in terms of deadlines for when the discussions will take place and in terms of the material we have created so far, we will publish it in two weeks and that everything will be public and transparent in order to have the best feedback from all stakeholders.
Why aren’t registries digitized yet?
The Office for Management of Registers is independent, but this issue is relevant. Registers should have been digitized, but they are not, and there are two main reasons for this. The first is that we have normative conflicts in the Macedonian legislation, i.e. we often have cases when one law is interpreted as contrary to another law and that was often the reason why some digitalization projects were stopped. Therefore, we as a Government are working to find all such laws and to harmonize them. The second reason is that, so far, not enough work has been done on digitalization both by the Government and by the Office for Management of Registers. The good news is that the current management of the Office for Management of Registers is focused on digitalization. We, as a ministry, as a component for encouraging and supporting other digitalization institutions, had two meetings with the management and formed a working group in which at the operational level we hired employees from our ministry and this administration, who work together to compile a plan for the main services that need to be digitized and set a time frame when this can be achieved.
And what time frame is that?
So far, we have agreed with the director of the Office to make a short-term plan, i.e. by the end of this year to have some priority services, and the long-term services are planned for the next two to three years. By the end of the year, we expect to digitize some of the services that citizens use the most in the Office. But today I would not like to speculate about which services, precisely because we have a case of different interpretations of laws where the service must not be digitized because it violates another law. We analyze the regulation and the technical aspect in parallel.
Despite the great promises of efficiency of the administration, the citizens are still wandering the counters and facing bureaucratic absurdities. What are you doing as a ministry to resolve this issue other than analyzing the laws?
The efficiency of the administration is a broad concept and in order to make broad systemic changes, we think that work should be done from different levels. What we as a ministry need to do is to adopt the necessary laws that will create mechanisms for the administration to be as efficient as possible. This year, in addition to the Law on Reorganization of Institutions, we have the Law on Top Management, i.e. how the directors or the heads of the institutions are elected because that is often one of the reasons why an institution is efficient or not. The idea with this law is that we have proposed that politics has no right to appoint directors, i.e. neither the government nor the Assembly.
We are also preparing the law on administrative employees, where part of the law is the manner of employment in the public administration. We know that in recent decades in Macedonia typical cases of employment in the administration are the cases when a certain political party determines who should be employed and not to use the mechanism of meritocracy. What we are working on with this law is to determine that political parties cannot interfere in employment.
The other component that would help in the efficiency and transparency of the administration is definitely the work of digitalization. Excessive bureaucracy in the institutions makes the processes in them very slow and there is no responsibility. We believe that with the digitalization of the processes if there are delays and inefficiencies, it will be much easier for us to determine where the problem is and the management of the relevant institution will know more easily how to solve the defects. If these two processes are developed properly, they will significantly improve the efficiency of public administration.
The Law on Administrative Servants has been discussed for a long time, by two ministers before you, but there is no implementation. Why do you think this time will be different?
I would not like to talk about the reasons why my predecessors did not pass these laws, because, of course, I do not have all the information. But I want to say that for such laws and digitalization in the context of administrative transparency, usually, the main issue is political will. What I can confirm now is that both we as a Ministry and the current government have the necessary political will to take concrete steps to increase the efficiency of the public administration and to pass laws that may not be politically welcome in the short term but will be beneficial for the state and the citizens in the long run.
When will a Digital Agency be established?
This issue has been discussed for years. We have formed a working group that analyzes the previous documentation from the two previous ministers. In parallel, we analyze the creation of digital agencies in different countries that are successful to see how it will be possible to create a Digital Agency in Macedonia that will be efficient as well. There are different models and we analyze which model will be the best for our country. The process is ongoing, but I do not have a deadline. In a few months, we will have a more accurate answer about the deadlines. We want to be sure that the moment we decide how to make a Digital Agency is the best way to do it.
Are there any plans to install new services on the “E-services” portal?
Some plans were made before I was appointed Minister. What we are doing now is revisiting those plans. We think that it is better to provide fewer services, but those that are most useful to the citizens, than to focus on quantity and provide over a thousand services that will be used rarely. Additionally, we will work on promoting these services, so that more citizens know that the services exist and can make their lives easier in communication with state institutions.
Can you tell us the number of employees in the administration together with the temporary employment through the Temporary Employment Agency, mainly in the municipalities?
We have the data and we have published the total number of employees in the public sector. I do not have these numbers before me now, but I can send them to you later. The number of employees in the state administration, i.e. only in the ministries and central institutions is about 14 thousand. There is a reduction and we are working to keep the best workers in the administration.
What is the project or initiative that you will prioritize during your ministerial term? Give us an example.
Digitalization is a priority, but I believe it will take a few more months to develop a concrete project toward our aim. When I say digitalization, I mean the digitalization of the processes in the public administration, in order to make it as efficient as possible, so that the state is as capable as possible and as close as possible to the citizens.
Can we have a digital identity in Macedonia as well? Can we hope that you will move this process forward so that we also have digital ID cards like in Estonia?
This is definitely one of the most likely options, but it means that all other departments should be with us, and we should have a government consensus on this. We are in the process of communicating this idea with our fellow ministers and the Prime Minister. The digital ID card is one of the best variants, as the case of Estonia shows, and it is the basis for further digitalization of other processes in the future.
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