Despite the fact that in North Macedonia there is a Platform for interoperability or interconnection, according to which state bodies, institutions and business companies should exchange data between them, this works partially. Changing the names of the streets, but not updating the registers, causes additional headaches for the citizens, where they are exposed to administrative procedures and have to wander between the counters to ask for “certificates” for which they spend money, writes Portalb.mk.
Behind the scenes of controversy over how to name city streets, municipal authorities carry out administrative procedures, often wrapped up in political circumstances or interests, which do not always end. This is exactly what causes bureaucratic problems, characteristic of our country which is slowly moving towards digitalization.
A typical example of the lack of interconnection of institutions electronically is the case of naming streets. The municipalities and the city of Skopje are obliged by law to have registers with the names of their streets and to update them, otherwise, a fine of 20,000 to 30,000 denars is provided for them.
According to the legal changes from 2015, the municipal inspectors can punish those responsible if they do not keep records. In case the perpetrator of the misdemeanor admits the misdemeanor, then they must pay the fine within 8 days, otherwise, the municipal inspectors submit a request for initiating a misdemeanor procedure before the Commission for deciding on misdemeanors at the Ministry of Transport and Communications.
According to the law, municipal inspectors are obliged to keep records of the issuance of smaller payment orders and the epilogue of the initiated procedures. They must collect, process and store data on the name and surname of the perpetrator, place of residence, type of offense, number of payment orders and the epilogue of the procedure.
For now, there is no evidence that municipal inspectors have issued payment orders.
The register where all the names in the country are registered is called the Address Register and the Central Register manages it. In Macedonia, in fact, there are two types of address records, one managed by the municipalities (for internal use) and the Central Register (public).
Confusion arises when municipalities change the names of streets and then do not complete the necessary procedures and register them in the Central Register, as well as when they do not update the address registers. This practically creates administrative chaos where a certain street in the municipality is registered with a certain name (new), while in the Central Register with another name (old). Legally, if a name of a street is not registered in the Central Register it does not apply.
According to the law, the change of street names must go through a process, which starts from the municipality, and with the consent of the Government ends in the Central Register, which then distributes the notification to the Ministry of Interior, the Statistical Office and the Cadastre.
Through the infographic below, we will show the route for changing the name of a street.
As you can see, changing the name of a street goes through several stages for which there are deadlines set by law. The City of Skopje or the municipality approves the name proposal to the Council and sends the proposal to the Government. The list is then returned to the Municipal Council and voted on for adoption. Within 8 days, the list together with the documentation is submitted to the Central Register, which within 15 days will have to register the new name of a certain street. After the change, the Central Register submits a notification on the change to the Ministry of Interior, the Cadastre and the Statistical Office within 3 days.
This would be a normal process, but the municipal authorities often do not respect it. In fact, according to the presentation of the Cadastre Agency, where in 2018 a workshop was held to establish a Register of Addresses in the Republic of Macedonia, 40 percent of municipalities in our country do not acted in accordance with the legal obligations for data transfer in the Central Register.
The City of Skopje submitted to the Central Registry the names of streets for which there was no consent from the Government
The previous administration of the City of Skopje, led by Petre Šilegov, in March 2021 submitted over 30 street names to the Central Registry, for which there was no consent from the Government and therefore the Central Registry did not register them in the Register of Addresses.
On February 16, 2021, the City Administration announced in a public statement the change of the names of hundreds of streets, for which there was consent from the Government, led by a fellow party member of the Mayor of Skopje. The list of names of streets, squares, bridges and other infrastructure facilities was published along with the announcement. According to the list, the names of 571 streets were to be changed.
Then, on March 25, 2021, the City of Skopje in another announcement announces again that the names of the streets will be changed. The list published by the city this time contained 485 names, among which there are names that are not on the first list from February 16.
On March 30, the Council of the City of Skopje adopted a decision to supplement the list with names of streets, squares, bridges and other infrastructure facilities. The decision of the Council refers to the list from February 16, but two names were removed, i.e. 569.
After the adoption by the Council, the City of Skopje submitted a list of names to change the names of the streets, but the Central Registry did not approve them. This was because according to the Law on naming streets, squares, bridges and other infrastructure facilities, this cannot be done six months before the elections, i.e. because on October 17, 2021, it was announced that local elections will be held.
After the elections, the Central Registry started the registration procedure, but it was determined that there was no consent from the Government for 32 street names and it did not register these streets and informed the City of Skopje to obtain compliance.
“When registering the application for registration, the Central Register did not register part of the infrastructure facilities (it is about 30 infrastructure facilities), because they were not in the draft- list for which the Government of RNM gave consent. The competent persons of the City of Skopje were also informed about this”, says the Central Registry.
The Government says that the decision on the list of names was voted on March 9, 2021, at the 51st session of the Government, but the disputed names were not in the draft- list.
“We emphasize that the proposed names you are interested in are not part of the list that the Council of the City of Skopje submitted to the Government of North Macedonia for approval. For more information, contact the City of Skopje “, say from the Government.
According to this, the bodies of the previous administration of the City of Skopje did not send an identical list with the names for which the Government gave consent but added other names for which there was no consent and which according to the law cannot be registered.
The new administration of the City of Skopje, headed by Danela Arsovska, says that the March decision of the City Council is illegal and that they are working with competent institutions to solve the problem.
“With this decision of the Council, the procedure for approving the changes has been violated, nor has the consent of the municipalities been given, which is necessary according to the law. The City of Skopje has already held a working meeting with the representatives of the Central Register and discussed solving the problem in the interest of the citizens. Due to the complex situation and the involvement and operation of many institutions, the City of Skopje will act within its competencies”, say from the City of Skopje.
Citizens pay for the lack of interoperability between institutions
The other side of the coin is that these changes force citizens to engage in bureaucratic procedures, with institutions asking citizens for “certificates” to prove that the street name they have in a particular document has been changed. The problem deepens because there are cases when a street name has undergone changes several times and the municipalities do not submit those changes to the Central Register or do not update their registers. Popularly speaking, the names are changed for populism, and the citizens then struggle to untie the knots of the administrative bureaucracy.
A citizen, for Portalb.mk, told about how she had to wander door to door for a service, which if the interoperability between the institutions was functional, would be easily overcome.
“I applied for a change of residence (in this case it had to go through the Bar Association). As proof of residence, I had to have a lease, service or property agreement to show that I was in control of the space, and for that, I had to submit a property certificate from the Cadastre. I took out a property list and wrote that address on the request (the same address was written by the Bar Association to the Central Register). The Central Register called the Bar Association, and they told me that the name of the street was not correct, that there was no such street. In order to solve this problem, which the Bar Association told me was frequent, I had to go to the City of Skopje to get a Certificate for the correct address and with that document to go to the Central Registry, “said the citizen.
According to this, the name of the address extracted from the property list of the Cadastre is not the same as the name of the address in the Central Register.
“After I went to the City of Skopje, I was informed that the city is not connected to the Cadastre, through interoperability,” the citizen told Portalb.mk.
In fact, the Cadastre is not related to the Register of Addresses of the Central Register either, and the Central Register is not related to the address registers of the municipalities.
The Cadastre Agency has a graphic register of street names and house numbers, which is a supplement to the geospatial data that the Agency ex officio receives from the Register of streets and house numbers kept in the Central Register.
This lack of interconnection creates additional problems in cases when the names of the streets are changed because if the citizens want to register their properties under the new name of the street, they have to hire themselves and pay for it.
The names of the streets are registered by the Agency for Real Estate Cadastre in the real estate property lists only based on submitting the legal basis issued by the competent authorities. According to the Cadastre, if the name and number of the real estate are not submitted, the space with the name of the street in the property list will be empty.
If the citizen has changed the name of the street where they live and wants to update the data in the property list, they must first go to the municipality where they live, get a certificate that the name of the street has been changed and then go to the Cadastre. For each change, you have to pay 300 denars, while the deadline for issuing the document is 7 days.
“The update of the new names of the streets is done in the procedure for maintenance of the real estate cadastre. The changes of the names of the streets in the property lists are made after the submission of the request by the natural and legal persons, to which is attached the appropriate legal basis issued by a competent body and proof of payment of the fee according to the tariff “, say from the Central Registry.
However, university professor Borče Davitkovski emphasizes that after the change of the name of the street, no confirmation should be requested. The Central Registry submits information to all authorities that the street name has been changed.
“In our country, according to the Law on Administrative Procedure, the bodies are obliged to collect all the documents themselves during the conduct of the procedure. This is mandatory, but they never do it and harass the citizens, and for example, if they go to the municipality, they force them to go from one counter to another to get documents. Of course, not every citizen has to go to the Cadastre to change the property list, go to the municipality, and send a “certificate” to the Cadastre. So the institutions should submit documents electronically to the Cadastre and this is where the whole thing should end, there is no need for the citizens to walk around or send confirmation,” said Davitkovski.
According to him, interoperability will be established only after a functional analysis that would precisely define the competencies of the institutions in order for several institutions not to deal with one issue, but to have only one competent institution.
“It has been announced for 20 years now that a functional analysis will be conducted, i.e. that the competencies will be differentiated between the administration bodies, especially the ministries. We establish bodies, but not competencies such as the establishment of MISA or the Ministry of Political Systems. You just need to do a functional analysis to avoid duplication. Interoperability will be done only after the functional analysis is conducted, i.e. to differentiate the competencies, to localize and then the interoperability will be required. Not like this. How to act when a number of institutions are responsible for one issue? Why should not only one institution be responsible for this matter? That is the functional analysis. For example, waters. In RNM the Ministry of Health, Agriculture, Transport and Communications, the Ministry of Environment, the inspectorates of the ministries and the communal inspectorates have competencies over waters. So we have 4-5 competent bodies, but still, our waters are much polluted,” he said.
“Confirmation” for identification documents, only when changing the house number
Identification documents and passports, i.e. ID cards or passports are valid until the expiration date, regardless of whether the street name has been changed. The Ministry of Interior, for Portalb.mk, explains that only if the municipalities change the house number, then the citizens must submit a certificate from the municipality.
“During the regular change of identification documents, ID card for example, if it is a matter of changing the name of the street, the citizen is not obliged to submit another document, except to write the street name on the ID card form. But, if the house number is changed by the municipality, then during the regular change it is necessary to submit a confirmation for change given by the municipality”, the Ministry of Interior says.
Unlike the Cadastre, the Ministry of Interior is linked to the Central Population Register, which includes, among other things, street and address registers.
“The Ministry of Interior is acting in accordance with the notifications submitted for changing the names of streets from the Central Register. The changes of the street names are registered in the electronic records of the information system of the Ministry and from that aspect the citizens have no problem and we have not received complaints from citizens about the inability to exercise the right to personal documents due to the street name.
We talked about the functionality of the interoperability platform in RNM with Iskra Belčeva, an expert from the Center for Change Management, an organization that continuously monitors the reforms in the administration.
“From the tests performed by some public sector services and the processing of some electronic services, we came to the conclusion that the Platform for Interoperability and External Data Exchange between institutions works only partially,” said Belčeva, explaining that this conclusion is based on testing of the scholarship service, but also on the service for electronic registration of students which is implemented for the first time this year.
As she says, the essence of the interoperability platform is not to need the exchange of documents, but only data (of citizens) that are quickly, easily and safely distributed electronically between institutions and in perspective with the private sector.
“However, the use of the interoperability platform depends on how much the databases of the institutions are digitized, whether the data from those databases are standard and known to other institutions and whether the institutions provide adequate protection (data security),” Belčeva added.
There are currently 42 institutions involved in the interoperability platform. Among them are the Central Register, the Cadastre Agency, the City of Skopje, ministries, inspectorates and a number of other institutions.
The digitalization of services, although necessary in Northern Macedonia is protracted and often hampered by bureaucratic issues of laws and procedures, while technological development and developed countries are “running” fast. While our institutions deal with “certificates, stamps and signatures”, advanced countries are building systems that facilitate citizens’ access to services, while saving time, effort and money.
The research of Portalb.mk showed that North Macedonia is 10 years behind the European Union in the field of digitalization.
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), e-Government Academy (Estonia), Levizja Mjaft! (Albania), Partners for Democratic Change Serbia (Serbia), NGO 35mm (Montenegro) and ODK – Open Data Kosovo (Kosovo).
This research story was prepared with the financial support of the European Union. The contents of this research story are the sole responsibility of the Metamorphosis Foundation and the author and in no way reflect the views of the European Union.