'Innovate or die' was the leitmotif of the ministerial conference "Public Service delivery across the Western Balkans" which was held in Tirana on Thursday with Ms. Milena Harito, State Minister for Innovation and Public Administration of Albania and the Regional School of Public Administration (ReSPA) as its organizers.
Ministers Marta Arsovska Tomovska, Minister of Information Society and Administration, Macedonia, Ms. Ana Brnabic, Minister of Public Administration and Local Self- government, Serbia, Ms. Suzana Pribilovic, Minister of Public Administration, Montenegro, presented current status of service delivery reforms in their respective countries after the welcoming speech held by Ms. Harito as representative of the host country.
"The reform of the administration had the challenge of changing the mentality for serving the citizens," said Ms. Harito as particular emphasis was put during the Conference on the Albanian model being currently implemented setting a new set of standards on public service delivery, increased transparency, increased satisfactory on service delivery, less waiting time, less corruptive practices, increased efficiency, as well as lessons learned from challenges which emerged and their mitigation.
"A special law was made on the public services to overcome a situation in which there was absolute lack of services to the citizens," Ms. Harito said, dwelling on the endeavor of the government to reform the public service system.
She considered as a turning point in this field the establishment of the Agency for the Delivery of Integrated Services in Albania (ADISA), which is a state agency responsible for the delivery of public services through setting up and administering service windows for citizens and one- stop shop and in- one - place Citizen Service Centers.
Referring to the practice followed in the revival of public services models were sought in Georgia and Azerbaijan, unveiled Ms. Harito, who hastened to explain what reasons stood behind that choice because, it was natural, that many participants wondered why Albania, an EU candidate country, did not eye patterns of the countries of the Western club.
"The EU member countries have not had problems in that field," explained the Albanian Minister who, in the meantime, expressed the gratitude to the European Union for the financial support provided by it to carry out that reform in Albania.
Being more concrete Ms. Harito brought as an example of the positive results of the reform the question of property. "We started with the Tirana Immovable Property Registration Office due to the fact that the highest number of cases existed in Tirana. The reform was launched in 2015 at a time when 40 percent of citizens' complaints were resolved in due time. After four months from the start of the implementation of the reform that percentage grew to 80 percent," she said.
Since the fall of communism this Balkan country has been faced with the question of property in general and property restitution as one of the hardest challenges. The process of the legalization of informal properties continues still remaining a serious social problem across the country.
Macedonian Minister Marta Arsovska Tomovska brought the experience of her country where, according to her, almost all the public services had been digitalized. She paid special attention to the fact that professional people were needed as staff in public service system.
"The public service is the mirror of the government," underlined Ms. Tomovska.
In her contribution the Serbian Minister, Ana Brnabic thanked her Albanian counterpart, Ms. Harito for bringing together all the Balkan ministers because, according to her, all the regional countries had, more or less, the same problems in the field of public service delivery.
"In this way it easier to solve the problems together," she noted paying special attention that eGov should serve at local and central levels. "Local government should provide the same service as central government. This is what Serbia is trying to do in its reorganization drive of public services," she said.
Ms. Brnabic congratulated Ms. Harito for the excellent work done so far bringing as an example the one- stop shop project.
The ministers, who incidentally were all women, shared the common opinion that the regional cooperation should be strengthened and according to them the Tirana Conference was an example. According to them, in their exchanges of ideas they had benefitted from each- other's experience. They also said that trainings of staff of public service system were of high importance.
Government institutions are mandated by law to provide services to citizens and businesses’ institutions, it was said in the Conference. Despite expectations of beneficiaries, based also on the experience with customer service standards in the private sector, such as banks, telecommunications etc. the problems they often encounter in interacting with these institutions have to do in various degrees with lack of information, transparency, accountability and efficiency, as well as cases of corruption.
In addition the ministers expressed the opinion that the implementation of the public administration reform remained a key priority for the accession agenda of the Western Balkan countries in the European Union.
Ministers from Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina did not attend the conference because of domestic political problems in both countries, it was officially declared at the outset of the Conference. Also, it was announced that Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama, who was supposed to greet the Conference, could not be present due to the latest political developments in this Balkan country that is expected to hold general elections amidst a political conflict between majority and opposition which struck a deal early on Thursday morning.