26 september 2011

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin chairs a conference on the provision of state services for the public

Vladimir Putin said that from October 1, 2011, all federal executive authorities will use electronic systems to communicate. He said “this is a crucial stage in the implementation of our systemic project to further develop an effective and modern mechanism for state governance.”

Transcript of the conference:

Vladimir Putin: Colleagues, all federal authorities will adopt a new system of operation, which will entail the use of electronic communication for all interaction, on October 1. What’s the concept? When people come to a state agency – a federal one in this case – for a reference or some other document, officials will no longer send them to other agencies for additional information but will themselves have to request it and then issue the requested document.

This is a crucial stage in the implementation of our systemic project to further develop an effective and modern mechanism for state governance. Of course, we are focused above all on satisfying the needs of the public and meeting the interests of society and of the national economy.

The introduction of modern electronic technology will certainly allow us to expedite and simplify many administrative procedures and to cut inefficient spending, because expenses increase when many officials have to interact with each other, what with paying for office space and state salaries. People should no longer have to spend their time getting information by standing in queues, which is an unproductive pastime.

Overall, people bring about 81 million requests to state and municipal agencies for documents and reference information a year. They are forced to go from one agency to another to accomplish their task. To complete these 81 million requests, they have to make 560 million visits to various agencies, that is, go six or seven times to various organisations to get the necessary document. We will now dispense with this process, which was nothing more than busywork and which only amounted to time lost and higher stress for the people.

From now on, state agencies will be prohibited from requesting any reference information from customers if they can get it themselves from other agencies. I want to stress that now we are talking about the federal level now, because we are only making the first step in this project. Everything we will be discussing today, and everything I just said, concerns federal agencies only. However, all of us know that people who come for a document often need information not only from federal but also from regional and municipal agencies.

On July 1, 2012, a system of electronic interdepartmental interaction should also connect the regions and municipalities. By that time, we must create – and we will create – a comprehensive system covering the entire country, which will then operate efficiently.

I am asking you to render all possible assistance to your colleagues in the regions and above all to focus on the technical exchange of information with the federal and municipal authorities. The principal task is to ensure a maximally comfortable situation for the people who should know what they need from officials and what those officials can demand from them. Every procedure must be simple, understandable and, most importantly, completed on time.

There is one more vital element: we should openly discuss all the issues related to providing state and municipal services and the introduction of modern technology with the people, with the public, business associations, in short, with all those who will be using this new process. And lastly, we should consider any constructive ideas or proposals, as well as any criticism.

We have held some preliminary discussions on this issue. There may be cases when we receive “dirty,” that is, incomplete or unreliable information. Everything must be checked and properly registered, and amendments must be made. Only in this way will we be able to achieve the desired results. I can imagine that at some level or in some agency the officials might decide to create problems in order to hinder the process, because not everyone wants to be replaced with a machine.

I also hope that the introduction of this technology will help us eradicate corruption. We must take all of this into account if we hope to accomplish it by the deadline. The deadline, I repeat, is July 1, 2012. I assume that there will be problems, and so to minimise them and to ensure that the system works effectively and in full at least by the end of next year, we will now discuss preparations for taking the first steps towards this end. Please, Ms Nabiullina.

Elvira Nabiullina: After this law was adopted in 2010, virtually every ministry and agency started working to prepare for electronic interaction this summer. This project involves nearly all of our ministries and agencies. Currently, 337 of the 900 state services require interdepartmental coordination, with reference information needed from other agencies requested for each of these 337 services. This amounts to getting five or six, but sometimes up to 10 or even more documents in the case of corporate customers. As a result of our work, which covered all of these 337 services, we have compiled technological maps and created a technology for information exchange. And now 988 documents will be provided through this interdepartmental system of interaction. Moreover, it turned out that 311 documents are not required at all. State agencies demanded that people and businesses submit these documents even though they did not use them to provide any service. We have established that these are surplus documents and so they will no longer be required. This is an indirect but positive effect of our work.

I think my colleagues can explain what this means better, but I will cite the example of the Federal Service for State Registration, Cadastre and Cartography, Rosreestr. This service is involved in interdepartmental interaction and annually receives about 26 million registration requests and 68 million information requests, a considerable number of which require getting additional information from other agencies, in particular the Federal Tax Service and the Unified State Register of Legal Entities. Even if we take a modest average number of requests, 10 million, and a conservative assessment of how much each request costs in terms of time, transportation and the cost of the paper we use, and suppose that each request costs at least 100 roubles, the introduction of the new system will save the public and businesses about 1 billion roubles. And this only for one type of request.

Rosreestr itself provides information to 33 other agencies. It issues information regarding 88 state services to people and legal entities, who take it to 33 different agencies. This adds up to 35 or 40 million requests made to Rosreestr alone, which will now be done through interdepartmental cooperation. This is very important. But for the system to work comprehensively, we should also involve the regions and municipalities, as you have said. We are currently implementing pilot projects in three regions – Bashkortostan, Volgograd and Samara. Other regions will also become gradually involved. Mr Shchegolev (Igor Shchegolev, Minister of Communications and Mass Media) recently held a meeting on the regional information policy in Vladikavkaz where the Economic Development Ministry presented its methods for organising this work in the regions. We hope the system will become fully operational by July 1, 2012. In the first few weeks, and more specifically in the first ten days, each agency will operate a hotline to accept information from the public and from businesses in order to better adjust the system.

We – I mean the agencies – have been working hard to adjust our information systems, because they differed from agency to agency but now have to work as a single whole. We had to amend 70 laws to launch this system. This is a crucial decision and we hope to implement it soon, so that the people and businesses will feel the positive effect of lowered bureaucratic barriers in their operation and in their lives.

Vladimir Putin: I'll repeat once more: this is only the beginning. It is hard to imagine that someone would come to a federal authority with a specific request, and that authority would require additional information from another federal authority in order to respond to it. As a rule, additional documents are required from municipal or regional bodies. The system cannot be fully functional until it is operating down to the regional level. But we must establish these communications between federal bodies right now. Are there any comments from the Federal Migration Service?

Konstantin Romodanovsky (Head of the Federal Migration Service): Mr Putin, colleagues, inter-agency communications are essential for the issues that the Federal Migration Service deals with. I may be rushing ahead, but here is an example: a new mechanism and fully operational inter-level and inter-agency communications could reduce the period required for issuing foreign passports from 30 days to 2-3 days, including delivery to the million cities of the Russian Federation. This means that the documents will be issued 10-15 times faster and in a more organised manner. These 14 federal services that we are launching for the citizens may become a truly powerful anti-corruption mechanism. I think that any procedure that limits interaction and contact between the people and bureaucrats will be seen by our people as a positive development. Our goal is to make the leap from 650,000 to 65 million electronic services provided every year through the federal services website.

The Federal Migration Service both provides and receives information. We are currently developing a hotline which a special department will be assigned to work with. Hopefully, we will be able to launch the hotline on October 1.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Mishustin, how is the tax service dealing with the issue?

Mikhail Mishustin (Head of the Federal Tax Service): Mr Putin, colleagues, of all the services that Ms Nabiullina mentioned, we are responsible for practically 57% of procedures that require inter-agency interaction. In particular, the most popular service website is the Unified Federal Register of Legal Entities and Individual Entrepreneurs. The third most popular service after the Federal Treasury is the Federal Tax Payer Register. Issuing licenses or passports -- all operations and necessary documents are based on these portals.

The Federal Tax Service, in its interaction with the tax payers, uses the data obtained from 15 agencies to issue invoices and any other other tax-related notices. This is what we call electronic communications -- when we receive electronic data to charge tax assets. These are tax assets related to land taxes, property taxes or transport taxes. Unfortunately, the issue of "dirty" data is a general problem that has been building up for years. There were no private owners [in Russia] before 1998. When the respective law was adopted in 1998, a register of private owners was formed based on the federal register of property rights and related transactions, which made errors inevitable. There were address errors, incorrect notices and missed deadlines.

The federal address system is only now being unified. We are aware that it is incomplete when we send a unified tax notice to a tax payer and receive negative feedback. The huge amount of work that has been done… currently, we are dealing with electronic interaction and cleaning the dirty data that needs to be sorted out. I believe we are ready for this. Mr Putin, we have passed all the tests. The two-thirds of the services that managed them successfully and were presented here today will form a basis for sorting the initial data from all the agencies involved in inter-agency communications.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Drozdov, and what about the Pension Fund?

Anton Drozdov (chairman of the Pension Fund Board): The Pension Fund takes an active part in the exchange of documents between government departments. We have one basic service – the point is that the law states that, with regards to the databases of individuals, all federal executive bodies must use the individual account insurance number as the identity code. So, starting on October 1, we will introduce the following service for all federal executive bodies and regions – upon receiving the family and given names, patronymic, date of birth and sex, we provide the individual account insurance number, and the other way round – upon receiving the information on the individual account insurance number, we confirm that it corresponds to the personal information.

This will allow all federal bodies to exchange information and prevent mistakes. To launch this service on October 1, we have run preliminary checks of our databases against those of the Federal Migration Service (FMS) (almost 150 million people), the Federal Tax Service (FTS), and the State Register (SR). Once we launch the service, we will be able to process several million inquiries in one day.

Also, on October 1 we will launch two public services that require the exchange of documents between departments. The first one concerns cooperation with the FTS on registering all kinds of legal entities and the second one bears on the use of maternity and family capital. Starting on October 1, parents will no longer have to submit documents to us on whether or not an educational institution is licensed or accredited in the event they have decided to use maternity capital for education. There will be no need to present us with RS documents on land plots and housing if this capital is used to improve housing conditions. We are ready for this and will introduce these changes on October 1.

We will legally introduce other services – another dozen services linked with pensions and allowances – on June 1.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Shchegolev, what about the hardware and software?

Igor Shchegolev: This was not an easy engineering problem. For almost a decade each department developed its own information system. We had two options to make our new system work – either dismantle the old system and build everything from scratch or programme all information systems to communicate with each other. Imagine an international conference where 30 participants speak different languages – you will have to provide interpreters for everyone. Developing and maintaining such a system would involve enormous costs.

We opted for a middle-of-the-road approach. We let every department continue running its database, while allowing all of them to exchange information through an intermediate mechanism – the Interdepartmental Electronic Exchange System. To continue the metaphor of the international conference, we have created a common language that all systems understand and everyone uses for communication. This allowed us to preserve capital, protect the data against loss, and establish communication between the departments in a short span of time. All federal bodies are now connected to this system, including those that do not take a direct part in this exchange but can make an inquiry through this system if need be.

Vladimir Putin: When the regions and municipalities join the system, the amount of information will definitely be tremendous.

Igor Shchegolev: The amount will be bigger but here we used the most advanced technology called cloud computing (the technology of distributed data processing whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices as a utility over the internet).

In other words, a region does not have to create the basic infrastructure from scratch – install servers, communication channels and computers with special software and teach people to create and, most importantly, protect information.

We have created an environment where any region may ask for information as a service – their officials remain in their offices while their system processes information according to the same principle as in the federal centre. This is many times cheaper and they don’t have to invent anything that we will have to coordinate with them later on. This system is already working as an integral whole. We have given the regions access to our federal system. This is our achievement for this year – we have switched all regions to this system. Now they will have to upgrade and complete their own databases to enable us to provide services at all levels.

We have established a mode for our cooperation. As Ms Nabiullina said, we met in Vladikavkaz the other day. All regions sent their representatives to this meeting and we held a question-and-answer session. We maintain real-time cooperation with them, just as our colleagues from the Ministry of Trade and Economic Development. We have created an information resource for this and have a feedback mechanism. They know that they can call and receive an answer.

We all want to involve the regions in this system by next July and help municipalities with expertise and other methods. We have announced that in forming the federal budget this year we decided to establish an additional fund to support the regions that are moving fast in this direction. The fund’s 500 million roubles are enough to promote such projects in the regions every year.

The system is already operating on a trial basis and providing many services. My colleagues were too modest. For instance, using different electronic channels and the remote document submission service, we have issued 600,000 foreign travel passports and received applications for the re-issue of 100,000 internal ones. We think this is a large amount. There have been some 800,000 remotely paid traffic fines.

We have tested the system. It is based on reliable, distributed software and is able to process up to two million queries per day. Even if we take 560 million queries, that would meet our annual needs and then some, but appetite comes with eating – there will be some other services – so we have constructed the system in a way that would enable it to process up to a billion queries per day and even more than that, if need be. The system is reliable and we hope for a feedback from the public once it starts working.

We have experience of such interaction. When we launched the public services website, we received comments. The tone was very friendly – everyone understood that this was something new. What we are now creating is a unique project not only for Russia but also for the rest of the world. It has powerful export potential, and not only for developing nations. The model we have implemented – nobody has tried to do this. Perhaps we were able to employ the best practices in the world because we started a bit later than others.

Vladimir Putin: Good.