Set aside 23 billion crowns of EU funds, add billions in state capital, and direct it at an interior ministry Smart Administration project to tackle red tape. What do you get? An utter shambles, judging by an assessment.
Seven years of work and billions of crowns were thrown at excess bureaucracy entangled within the state administration, but it was not enough to make any real headway. That’s one conclusion drawn from an evaluation of the government’s Smart Administration strategy, published by the interior ministry. What’s more, although it was the government that two years ago requested the compiling of the assessment, E15’s information is that the document, released in August, has not made it through to government office.
The battle – or lack of a battle – against bureaucracy has been looked into by the Supreme Audit Office [NKÚ], which as early as last year filed a criminal complaint. “In our opinion this strategy has simply failed, it was systematically set up badly,” said Olga Málková, spokesperson for the NKÚ.
The NKÚ’s verification officials discovered evidence of alleged violations in legal duties in the management of third-party assets, in adhering to the rules of sound economic competition and in protecting the European Union’s financial interests from damage. The claimed breaches were attributed to negligence. E15 also understands that even prior to the NKÚ involvement, police began probing the Smart Administration strategy. The police declined to comment on whether they had got anywhere with the case.
The interior ministry, meanwhile, is not yet able to clarify how much of the CZK 23bn of European funds, as well as the billions of crowns of state budget capital, has been spent. Looking at the strategy from all angles, the ministry’s evaluation damns it as a pure failure. The main goals of improving quality of life for citizens and supporting Czech economic growth by pushing up public administration efficiency have not been met.
Attempts at simplifying bureaucratic steps have not even delivered the removal of superfluous regulations. While the aims of launching applications to support the legislative process and the public database of Czech laws have foundered. Some success is found, however, when it comes to the introduction of digital administration (or “e-government”), including databox services, the Czech POINT contact points and basic registers.
“It has been for many years the last substantial project in the field of the computerisation of public administration which public institutions are still faced with through to today,” said former interior minister Ivan Langer, who launched Smart Administration in 2007. “After the exit of our team, most of our successors devoted more energy to demolishing things than to creating things. The peak of the inaction occurred during the past three years, when absolutely nothing was done,” he added.