A Paper-Shredding Commission Tackles Kafkaesque Bureaucracy in Romania
Red tape in Romania is a huge headache that costs everyone time and money. New parents need to submit multiple versions of a package of physical documents to different government offices in order to register for their welfare allowances. Businesses have to undertake a long and expensive process to register for VAT, and are sometimes rejected without any clear explanation why. When a citizen needs to prove that they have no criminal record, they have to visit three different institutions. They first need to get a stamp from the post office, then pay a fee at the National Agency for Fiscal Administration and then finally pick up the document from the police.
To give citizens a voice about this problem, the website http://www.maisimplu.gov.ro (translation ‘http://www.simplify.gov.ro’) was launched in February this year. The platform asks citizens and businesses to submit an example of excessive government bureaucracy, and make a concrete proposal of how it could be simplified. It’s the first time a consultation of this type has been set up, and people directly asked about their experiences interacting with government administration.
In the first three weeks of the launch of the website, almost 2000 submissions were received from citizens and 800 from businesses – this far exceeded everyone’s expectations.
Citizens want official forms to be shortened, and to be able to submit these online to authorities – and not as hard copies. People also want to put an end to the current practice of running around different government offices with duplicated paperwork. This could easily be solved by connecting the different offices with IT systems and automating forms.
A ‘Paper-Shredding Commission’ will now start to look at the suggestions on a case by case basis, addressing the most common problems first. In parallel, it will ensure that any future public service or bureaucratic procedure is designed with the principles of digitalization and simplification already in mind.
This initiative is rooted in the government’s strategy for strengthening public services by reducing administration. At the launch of the website, Romanian Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos underscored the importance of developing complementary and interoperable IT systems, and moving public services online. It’s also worth noting that the latest OGP progress report recommends that Romania’s next National Action Plan increase its focus on civic participation and public accountability. http://www.maisimplu.gov.ro is a great example of how this could be done, and has the potential to pave the way for other reforms.
And the simplest part of this whole initiative? The website was built in less than a week using the WordPress platform. More governments around the world could just as easily set up a such a website. With over 50 countries drafting OGP National Action Plans in the first half of 2016, governments and civil society have the opportunity to develop commitments to build similar feedback channels, with the aim of reforming administrative services and making life a little simpler.