Posted: 4 September 2019

E-services, future of public service delivery

Prime Minister Edi Rama: Good afternoon everyone!

We resume today the cycle of co-governance platform, which has of course kept working and being fully operational every day during the summer holidays and I am really very pleased to announce that co-governance platform team has processed an average of 1000 cases, mainly complaints filed by the citizens for facing barriers and delays in the process of receiving various documents from the state offices, both at central and local level, as well as other various kinds of requests and demands. On the other hand, it is highly important to point out that despite of any kind prejudices, or not so positive situations triggered by comments or public slurs on various media outlets, it is clear that the citizens and public trust in the co-governance platform keeps growing, because the platform is completely available to them and because, step by step, the constant addressed cases and the success stories of the interaction between the citizens and the government through the platform have had a significant impact.

These weekly meetings, where we invite protagonist citizens in terms of their involvement and interaction with the co-governance platform and solution of their problems through the quick assistance by the government, helps exactly the common citizens of this country to see through concrete examples how their peers have interacted with the platform and how their problems have been ultimately addressed.

As always, I would invite one of the co-governance platform coordinators to introduce the first case. I invite Egesta, who has handled the case concerning Mr. Hysen.

Egesta, co-governance platform coordinator: The cases I am about to introduce have been handled by the Ministry of Finance and Economy and they mainly concern retirement and pensions issues. So, Mr. Xhelja has lodged two complaints with the co-governance platform; the first one had to do with his own pension problem as the Social Insurances Institute refused to acknowledge 10 work years, thus affecting the pension payment. The complaint was processed through the Social Insurances Institute that recalculated his wrongly calculated pension payment and provided also a compensation pay-out for underpayments over years. The co-governance platform coordinators have also handled his second complaint, asking to be provided with a due legalization permit for an informal building, about which he had submitted a self-declaration form since 2005. After paying the respective fee in September 2019, his wife, Mrs. Manushaqe has finally received the legalization permit.

Mrs. Manushaqe Xhelja: I would like to express my appreciation for granting us the opportunity to receive the property ownership certificate. I am also grateful for solving my husband’s pension underpayment problem that otherwise I would have never solved.

PM Edi Rama: We should really thank you instead, because the citizens’ direct involvement helps a lot more in our joint effort and common task to prompt and force the public administration do the best possible in performing their task. On the other hand, the public involvement also helps to identify individuals or both visible and non-visible small groups of individuals in the public administration who obstruct work so that they are punished fit to their misdeeds, failure to accomplish their tasks, and review the way how public administration structures work. I am very glad – and this is, I believe, one of the main reasons to take pleasure at the co-governance platform’s performance – that retired people often quickly address a really vital problem to them as it might have to do with their dignity to restore an economic right as the correct calculation of the pension payment. Indeed, the relevant institution has already significantly improved its work, yet it is still far from being a structure reacting and delivering real time replies all over the territory of the country. Unfortunately, the retired people fail to receive the response they deserve from a number of local offices. However, they ask for the platform’s help and by doing so they succeed in overcoming any barriers as government sides with them instantly. In other words, what they often have hoped and wished for in vain over years can now become a reality within a limited number of days and I want to appeal to every retired people, who face problems regarding their pension payment calculation, to waste no time by knocking on doors of offices, don’t wait for a solution if one is not found immediately, but address to Albania We Want platform instead. It is a platform that has tackled any problematic issue concerning retired people, especially when it comes to their pension payment recalculation.

Egesta, co-governance platform coordinator: Mrs. Mevlude had originally benefited a disability living allowance for her disabled husband and a family pension later. She now receives a retirement benefit. For years now she had been asking for her pension payment to be recalculated, but failing to find a solution. With the complaint forwarded to the Regional Directorate of Social Insurance in Tirana, her pension payment was recalculated and her long denied right has now been restored.

Mrs. Mehmetukaj: I feel honoured to be here with you today to express my appreciation and gratitude for addressing my problem. I have been working at Military Hospital Centre for over 30 years. I cared about my disabled husband for two years and I was entitled a very low pension payment. My husband later died. Initially I received half of my husband’s pension and then I retired to receive my own pension. I was entitled an extremely low retirement pension of around 4800 lek a month although I had worked and contributed for so many years. I hesitated to speak up as I believed I would fail in making my voice be heard. I addressed first to the Social Insurance Directorate. Nobody took the trouble to consider my complaint there. Then I decided to lodge a complaint with the co-governance platform and coordinators examined my case and I was granted my right. I also received a compensation payout. Words cannot express how grateful I am for your help. Thank you!

PM Edi Rama: Indeed, when we took over, many people used to come to our party headquarters, where the parliamentary group used to hold its meetings and generally speaking we didn’t succeed to address many problems, but by tasking the team of boys and girls behind the computer screens of the co-governance platform and making them available to the people, regardless of their party membership cards, regardless of their origin, we have succeeded in tackling so many issues. In addition to this, our Socialist lawmakers are assisted by a small staff of people to address the citizens’ concerns. Likewise, a computer and coordinators of the co-governance platform are also deployed in every postal service office to help citizens by addressing the platform should they are denied a public service. This has helped us to expand our activity, but much more important is the fact that the platform is not limited geographically or territorially. Everyone can access the platform via their very own smartphones, either being here in Albania or abroad. On the other hand, I am very glad to highlight the many cases concerning retired people, who are now seeing their pension payment recalculated and also benefiting a compensation payout for any wrongful calculation. This lady in question has already received full compensation for the entire deserved payment she has not received over years. It would be best for everyone facing such a problem to follow this lady’s suit and address to the co-governance platform.

Egesta, co-governance platform coordinator: A citizen from the town of Pogradec has entrusted her problem to the co-governance platform. Mrs. Fatmira Pllaha asked for the platform’s help as she has been working and contributing for over 41 years, however her pension payment she is entitled to has been calculated on the basis of a minimum insurance contribution period of 15 years only. The Social Insurance Institution had advised her to take the matter to the court, however unsuccessfully. Her complaint was examined also by the Regional Insurance Directorate in Korça and, following a series of verification, the pension payment was recalculated to include some more 27 years of work. She was also granted a significant amount of compensation pay-out. Mrs. Fatmira’s daughter is today here to introduce her mother’s case.

Mrs. Matilda: I am Fatmira’s daughter. She asked me to attend this meeting and express her gratitude to the Prime Minister and the institution that acted and worked to ultimately tackle her problem concerning the pension payment. For nine years now, my mother used to be very uneased anytime the pension payment date neared. She had been working during her entire lifetime, but she was denied the right pension payment. Some four or five months ago, I happened to watch a lady on a TV program, who similarly had earned her recalculated pension payment. I asked my husband whether he could apply with the co-governance platform. He did and a reply was forwarded to us in a matter of a week, informing us that the complaint was being processed and just three weeks later a final response was sent confirming that my mother’s pension payment had trebled and she was entitled to receive a compensation pay-out too. I am here to express appreciation on behalf of my mother for the system you have established to address the citizens’ woes.

PM Edi Rama: Thank you very much for taking the trouble and I have constantly expressed the fact that it is actually our pleasure to welcome here many citizens, who have had their problems resolved after being tormented wandering about the endless labyrinth of the administration, citizens who take the trouble, no longer for themselves, but other people in order for them to figure out straightforwardly through the accounts the participants share with us, clearly demonstrating that the co-governance platform is for real, it helps the common citizens who enjoy no support from influential people or political parties, or are not willing to resort to other obscure channels, with certain administration employees or officials, who represent the rotten part of the public administration, as they sometimes ask for bribes in exchange of a public service. So you nobody needs to bribe someone anymore, nobody needs influential friends or a political party’s help and nothing else. It just takes a small trouble, just few minutes to lodge the complaint that is directly sent to this group of girls and boys, while the relevant cabinet minister is notified in order to examine and monitor the case. Somehow, every citizen who addresses the platform has direct and instant access. Everyone can now call or ask to meet me or a cabinet member in person. And, on the other hand, I feel really great for the fact that all these accounts and the work being done by the co-governance platform team have significantly mounted pressure on the public administration, gradually improving the level of their reaction and the service delivery, although still far from being the public administration we want and still far from being uniformly. There are certain offices that deliver public services immediately and qualitatively, but there are other offices that, despite being part of the same institution, fail to perform well in delivering services. It would suffice to look at the difference between the Immovable Property Registration Office in Tirana and certain other regional offices, which will soon undergo transformations as the newly-launched unified State Cadastre further consolidates.

Fatmir, co-governance platform coordinator: In early January, the Regional Immovable Property Registration office in Shkoder received an application by Mr. Brahim Brahimi, a Shkodra resident, who applied for his property registration and provision of the property ownership certificate. Shkodra regional office had to act before the end of January 2019 deadline. But the Immovable Property Registration office failed to meet this deadline. And not only that, the regional directorate of the State Cadastre failed to act upon a complaint lodged by Mr. Brahimi. It took him to file a complaint with the co-governance platform in order to receive the property ownership certificate.

Mr. Brahimi: I had applied for a property ownership certificate, but I failed to gain it for over three years. I filed a request with the platform then and I received the document within three weeks only.

PM Edi Rama: Nobody should hesitate. On the other hand, the digital government and administration is the future of public service delivery in the sense that we will gradually make sure that contact with the public offices is minimized and every public service is delivered electronically. But in the meantime, we need to be united and intensively interact with every citizen, because without the citizens and without their persistence, it would be almost impossible to push forward such a heavy machinery as the public administration is, which has been used to rest in place, consume a lot of energy and torment citizens in order to force them pay bribes in exchange of a public service. This is what the previous administration was and today’s administration is much better than the previous one and it will definitely improve in the future. So such an interaction is indispensable, just like the interaction against the informality is. Most recently we have launched a smartphone app that is available to every citizen. But I have found out some derogatory comments, suggesting that the people who report cases of informality are spies and such an operation cannot be carried out with help of these spies. The state is composed of everyone. The state doesn’t imply the government and the municipalities only. The state, first and foremost, is built on the very self-conciseness, awareness and dignity of every citizen, who refuses to accept cases of abuses in the state where he lives and act to denounce them. Of course, a citizen alone cannot face someone who commits abuses for his own reasons, but this citizen is obliged and has the right to set in motion that part of the state that should react.

Lediana, co-governance platform coordinator: The case I am about to introduce now has to do with the settlement of overdue payments to workers of a joint stock company, namely “the Tobacco and Cigarette” company in the city of Shkodra. The company had experienced an administrative problem in terms of settling the delayed wages to its workers. That’s why the company’s administrator herself has asked for the Ministry of Finance assistance in order to intervene and find a solution to this problem. A special working team carried out the verifications and reached a conclusion that convinced the Ministry of Finance and Economy to allocate the due funding in order to liquidate salaries of seven workers, including the social insurance contributions.

Mrs. Gentiana: Our case was both rare and complex one. Having exhausted all the possibilities, it was completely impossible to provide a funding in order to settle the overdue payments to workers and other shareholders. Therefore, I decided to address to the platform. A lot of my friends used to tell me this was almost impossible and advised me that “if I was to address to the platform, then I should also be prepared to be fired from my job position.” But I was confident and decided to forward the issue to the platform and here we are today. Our problem has been finally solved and the outstanding payments have been already settled. I would like to express my appreciation to the platform and everyone working to tackle this issue. I am very happy today as every citizen is now given an opportunity and a door to knock on in order to solve their problems.

PM Edi Rama: The next case that is about to be introduced is one of those cases that deserves to be processed, since the platform doesn’t distinguish between various cases based on their size. Of course, living in an apartment house while an industrial activity goes on just a storey below it is a terrible experience for those who live amid noise, smoke and pollution caused by an economic activity going on right under your bedroom. One might ask, what on earth has the co-governance platform has to do with this case? How can a government deal with such a problem? But the choice we have made is not to ignore as a minor any problem that affects even a single citizen or family. In this sense, I personally am a platform on my own, although the complaints I receive are then forwarded to the co-governance platform team to carry out the procedures institutionally. However, it is crucially important that not a single citizen feels his voice is not being heard, not a single common citizen feels neglected, although the complaint he makes might sound completely minor to everyone else.

Fatbardha, co-governance platform coordinator: Today I will be presenting the case concerning Mr. Flamur Zaimi, a Tirana resident. Mr. Zaimi asked for the co-governance platform’s help on behalf of a group of residents in a building along “Ali Visha” street in Tirana. They were concerned about the fact that a furniture manufacturing business used to operate for some time on the ground floor of their building, causing serious acoustic and environmental pollution. The case was instantly handled by the State Inspectorate of Environment, Forestry, Water and Tourism that carried verification and inspection actions and found the workshop operating without a due environmental permit. The activity was suspended and the company transferred its activity outside the residential area.

Mr. Flamur Zaimi: I am the administrator of two condominiums along “Ali Visha” street. We are grateful that such a platform solving the citizens’ problems exists. As the co-governance platform coordinator noted, the residents complained for years over the private activity taking place on the ground floor of the building, but nothing happened. Therefore, we thought to lodge our complaint with the platform and we received a positive response in just two days and the private activity was suspended and moved to another area. We still face other problems at other apartment blocks, but we remain hopeful that the platform will address them too.

PM Edi Rama: The last case again concerns this sort of disturbing activities, namely a pedlar who disturbed citizens in their public space.

Fatbardha, co-governance platform coordinator: The next case concerns a group of citizens from the city of Durres. Mrs. Blerina Papajani asked for the platform’s help on behalf of residents of a condominium in the Illiria beach area. They were worried a private minivan used to station in their shared public space, selling food products and polluting the environment. The case was tackled by the Municipal Police in Durres, who verified the case and freed the public space.

Mrs. Blerina Papajani: As Mrs. Fatbardha said, we were concerned about the fact that our public space in front of our houses was occupied by a vendor. It was really disturbing for everyone. On their behalf, I filed the complaint with the platform to address this problem, as we couldn’t deal with this person who used to throw insults and threats. The problem was solved and I would like to thank you all on behalf of the residents in our neighbourhood.

PM Edi Rama: By the way, as the beach-related problems emerged in this case, I would like to emphasize that we have already launched a far-reaching reform along the country’s coastline.

The experience over the years is enough for us to move to another stage. The growth in number of foreign visitors this year too, despite the troubles and damages that were caused during the first six months of the year, has prompted us to seriously engage entire society to understand that we can no further tolerate the current situation along the country’s entire coastline.

Rule has significantly restored, if compared to the past, but the coastline is still far from being something properly managed in view of the country’s future and protection of a tremendous natural asset in view of development and harmonization of all institutions in their effort to ensure sustainable development. I am very confident that we will soon prepare a full package of amendments to the law on coastline management and control and make intensive preparations in order to make sure that greater changes take place ahead of the next tourist season.

We have ensured much cleaner seasons than previously, yet cleanliness still remains a challenge.

We have ensured safer tourist seasons than the previous ones, but acoustic pollution and the public spaces on the beaches remain a challenge. So, we should work to provide access and enable everyone to use public beaches without having to pay for beach chairs and umbrellas and sleep without being disturbed by noise from the omnipresent dance and disco clubs.

More than 50 000 complaints have been lodged with the co-governance platform to date, but we still face the problem of slow reaction from the local government authorities despite the majority of complaints concern local government. However, it is worth mentioning the fact that as many as 115 000 users have registered with the platform within a very short time.

Of course, a lot more needs to be done in order to establish a more intensive interaction with people and achieve success in our joint effort, with people interested in solving their own problems and us interested in improving the situation wherever necessary.

Some 788 state employees from directors to specialists have been penalized just because they have failed to properly reply and respond to the citizens. So, a common citizen no longer needs the help of influential friends, political parties or is forced to pay bribes. He even does no longer needs to take the trouble to report to a certain office. It takes just a complaint lodged with the platform and he will not only have his right restored, but also helps to legally punish every responsible official and public administration employee.

Thank you very much everyone!