A month and a half after declaring a total war on bureaucracy, the Bulgarian government has decided that in order to achieve total victory, it needed to create more bureaucracy.
This is according to an acerbic report on July 27 by daily Sega, which noted that the “new miracle” decided on at a Cabinet meeting the day before would be called a regulatory board, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev.
The board will conduct sector-by-sector reviews of unnecessary regulatory systems for businesses and citizens, and will issue opinions and recommendations on which licences, permits, certificates and declarations should remain and which should be removed.
The paradox is that there is a state apparatus already in place to deal with the big issue of parasitic structures, army of officials and bureaucratic burden, Sega said.
There is a whole Council for Administrative Reform (CAR) within the Cabinet office. The Regulatory Board will be an annex to the CAR.
“The government message does not explain why it is necessary to create an administration within the administration,” the report said.
On July 26, Donchev’s office said that the board would be a modest collective body in which five to seven people would sit. It would work alongside the three working groups that are currently operating within the CAR.
The Cabinet decided that Donchev should lead not only the board, but also the Board for Administrative Reform itself. The head of the Agency for Electronic Governance, Rosen Zhelyazkov, became a member of the CAR.
The idea of a board to “sift” excess red tape was launched by Donchev at a previous Cabinet meeting on the need for urgent measures against the administrative harassment of citizens and businesses.
At the time, Donchev said that there should be a unit at the level of the Cabinet office, which would watch any changes in legislation and hit the brake if an increase in the administrative burden is envisaged.
Donchev has even criticised his colleagues for talking about reducing bureaucracy while proposing new burdens: “You are proceeding with new acts in which you foresee new systems and new required documents, and that is a fact at a time when we are reducing them”.
The CAR has existed since 2009. How effective it has been, shows the statistics presented by the government itself – there are currently 1422 administrative services and regimes requiring the submission of 5985 documents. This bureaucracy ate up 26 million hours a year for taxpayers in Bulgaria.
In June, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov ordered that the summer holidays of ministers and clerks be canceled until they say how they will cut the queues in front of the counters.
“The war will be big, the resistance of the administration is enormous, either we will work for the benefit of the citizens and the business, or we will go,” Borissov said at the time. He said that if he saw any of his Cabinet ministers not “embracing the idea”, they would be gone.
After the initial activity, there was a lull. Next week, Bulgaria’s MPs will be on summer recess, which means nothing will change until the autumn.
The Cabinet ministers said that the changes will be ready in September, which will remove 12 paper documents and officials will exchange online the data from eight registers of different agencies that will be put into electronic contact.
These are certificates from the Commercial Register, the Property Register, BULSTAT, the Register of Obligations to the Customs Administration, the Register of the Civil Marriages Act, among others.
On its own, the abolition of the requirement to provide a certificate of no criminal record requires a change to more than 40 laws and more than 240 ordinances.
It remains unclear what is happening about the promises by various Cabinet ministers to scrap various fees and documents. Economy Minister Emil Karanikolov alone has promised the scrapping of 21 charges and the reduction of 67. There is no information on whether meetings have been held with mayors and district governors in order to eliminate the illegally introduced regimes and fees, the report said.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)