Bill Introduces Separation Between Citizen and State

The Economic Development Ministry has drafted a bill on state services that lays out the ideal relationship between citizens and bureaucrats: There shouldn’t be one.

The bill would standardize services on all levels of government, including 500 federal services and 120 each at the regional and municipal levels, according to a copy of the legislation obtained by Vedomosti. Everything from birth and marriage registration to receiving citizenship and registering for pensions would be covered, as would business services such as licensing, registration, accreditation, and appraisals.

The bill would not affect hospitals, schools or kindergartens, because they are not classified as state services, said Maxim Parshin, deputy head of the ministry’s state regulation department.

A Cabinet source said the bill was being eagerly awaited. “It’s a priority and part of the national plan for the war on corruption. We will do everything to make sure the bill goes through the ministerial conciliation and approval process very quickly,” he said.

The Economic Development Ministry hopes the law will be passed this year and go into effect in 2010.

Under the law, citizens would receive all state services in multifunctional centers, rather than directly from the state.

“With this law we are separating people from the bureaucrats who make the decisions, Parshin said.

The centers, which will be established by the state bodies that provide the services, will process requests and distribute prepared documents to them.

Additionally, the state body will be expected to maintain the center using funds saved from passing off some of its work, the ministry said. Currently, all state authorities get a subsidy from the federal budget for services rendered.

“It’s doubtful we can save enough money to open several dozen multifunctional centers at a time of falling incomes,” said a governor of a region where there is already such a center.

A Finance Ministry source said the bill did not offer spending estimates.

Parshin said the cost of state services wouldn’t change, however. “Individuals and businesses will pay fees set by the government. … Throughout the country there are already about 37 multifunctional centers in 35 regions,” he said.

“The multifunctional center probably made our work simpler, but it hasn’t defeated corruption,” said an official in the Lipetsk regional government.

The quality of state services should grow thanks to the Internet. Services will be entered into a register on a single portal, the legislation says.

But the law must set very clear standards for the services so that individuals and businesses will be able to challenge decisions in court, said Lev Yakobson, provost at the Higher School of Economics.

The legislation only affirms general principles and requirements, but, as before, the agency providing a service will develop the standards, he said. “Such a principle discredits the idea of administrative reform,” he said.