Ukrainian administrative services: hell on Earth

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2014/07/27 • Political News

Andriy Chernikov, freelance journalist, 1 July 2014

Editor’s note. Reforming the post-soviet system of ineffective administrative services is one of the most intimidating tasks standing before the new Ukrainian government. The administrative reforms performed by Georgian government of Saakashvili over the latest years had inspired many Ukrainians to believe that this good experience can be repeated in Ukraine. This article gives a glimpse at the tasks that the reformers face and the experiences of the Georgian advisers in Ukraine. 

As you probably know, it’s been over two months since a group of Georgian advisers started working in Ukraine together with the government on the attempted introduction of two important reforms:  to establish an electronic system for public procurement through reverse procedure, and to open “legal centres”, which by the way already exist here and there and are called “Administrative Service Centres.”  In Georgia these are new modern buildings where a citizen can obtain all necessary documents in a matter of minutes. In Ukraine it could take days, weeks, months and even years to get the required seals of approval, documents and certificates.

Early this morning [on 1 July 2014], before working hours, a Georgian Member of Parliament, the ex-Deputy Minister of Justice of Georgia Giorgi Vashadze, Levan Varshalomidze, ex-Prime Minister of Adzharia, and expert David Kiziria set out to investigate what is going on in the those centers.

None of the centers was informed of the visit by the Georgian experts. We first went to Boryspil [Kyiv Oblast].  Mr. Vashadze and Mr. Kiziria entered the Centre and asked the guard if there were lines.  However, they were persuaded so intensely that there are never any lines there and everything runs like clockwork, they became suspicious the center was notified of the Georgians’ visit in advance.  Moreover, it was not only them visiting, but also the Minister of Justice Pavlo Petrenko, whom we also met there.

After Boryspil, we went to one of the Kyiv state notarial offices.  There we met people who had to reserve their place in the line at 5 a.m.  People also told Minister Petrenko and the Georgian experts of instances of all places in the line being sold and how they are not being informed about all of the documents required, as well as the rudeness etc.

We entered the office when it opened.  I had a mobile with me and was taking pictures.  The manager of that office asked me:

– Why are you taking pictures here?

– I’m taking pictures of you.  Why? Is it forbidden?

– Yes, it is forbidden.

At that moment Mr. Petrenko popped out from behind me:

– In fact, that is not forbidden.

The office manager studied Mr. Petrenko’s face for a few seconds and recognized him.

– Oh, yes!  Of course, photographing is allowed!

In general, one cannot imagine a worse situation.  Such a disgrace.  Then came her explanations which implied there was no way out and the lines would go on forever.  The office manager complained of the lack of notaries, to which Mr. Petrenko promised to send three of them, though, everybody understands that it won’t help much.

There was also an Administrative Services Center nearby.  People there also complained of the lines, the illogical procedures and the waste of time and nerves.  The manager of the Center turned out to be rather arrogant:  according to him, it was the first time he had ever heard of any lines, and if people were coming at 5 a.m., that is their problem – and that he personally gives advice to anybody in case something is not clear.  People listened to him with some surprise.

– “Please excuse me, of course, but I can’t believe that you can actually provide advice to anybody, because you aren’t wearing a badge.  Who are you?   How would I know to whom I can address my queries?” asked Mr. Vashadze.  It is specifically Mr. Vashadze who established the legal centers in Georgia and is providing advice to the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice on how to do this in Ukraine.  Properly speaking, our morning visit to this bedlam is an attempt to grasp the flaws of the administrative services system.

Mr. Levan Varshalomidze, by chance, found in one of the rooms an electronic terminal to register for the administrative services.  The device simply stood there, hardly distinguishable.  Mr. Varshalomidze selected the category “real estate”.  He pressed the screen with his finger.  The terminal issued a ticket with the number of his position in line. It was No.1.

– What next? – I asked.

– Nothing, – he answered.

Indeed, the electronic number did not mean Mr. Varshalomidze would be the first one in the line.  A woman with number 6 was walking along the corridors looking for number 5.  But she had no idea which room she should go to with that number. There were tables behind the glass, with administrators sitting at those tables;  electronic displays with numbers lit up above the tables.  I initially thought that was the number in the waiting line.  But just in case I asked what it was. The reply was:

– That’s the table number.

Imagine – the table number is illuminated.  The terminal issues a piece of paper with a number.  Why?  At the same time the monitor hanging by the ceiling, which was supposed to show the line, was instead showing an empty schedule.  The whole line initially formed outside, where people had a separate list.  However, the manager of the center, in his own words, did not care – that’s not his problem.

While we were here, other Georgian experts were visiting other centers. They sent some photos of the line list written down on a piece of paper, which lay pinned down with a stone to prevent its being blown away by the wind.

It was not the first time I met with the guys from Georgia, but it was the first time I started doubting that they would succeed.  Ukrainian administrative services is a “dark tunnel”.  I’ve been through it too.  Nothing can be changed there.  We need to build it all over again.  That is why the Georgians are here.  They are preparing pilot justice centers with all procedures and standards prescribed to make the administrative services as simple as making an omelette.

While we were still in Boryspil the ex-Prime Minister of Adzharia Levan Varshalomidze was glaring at one of the Soviet period  buildings and kept saying:

– It would be good to pull it down and build something good.

Well, is there any other way?

Google up some photos of Batumi and you will know what he meant.

Source: liga.net Translation by: Svitlana Skob, edited by: Kateland B&Myron Spolsky

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  • Jacks Channel

    Post Soviet functionality.

  • llewellynh

    Just some information from the US. Each State licenses notary publics and I once was one. To get that license I had a book to really study and then was required to take a several hour examination. One doesn’t have to go to a government agency to have things notarized in the US.

    Many businesses find it useful to have a couple of notaries who are available but do other work as their main job. Banks usually have a notary and all real estate office do as well. All lawyers offices have them, too.

    So it’s by having so many ways to get things notarized – often at no charge but at the most for a very small fee – that we don’t have lines. It’s not an ultra complicated job and once the person studying understands the limits and obligations involved, rapidly – say two months – a notary is created!

    The Russians and a few other european countries are very into rubber stamping people working as government employees. That in your situation creates corruption because WHO is getting paid for just a place in line? Eliminate the scarcity of notaries and that avenue of theft will be closed.

  • Murf

    UA should use the age old military reform method. Fire who ever is in charge and replace him with the next in line. “Now get with the program or I will keep firing people until I find one who will.”