PROSTO “Support to Services Accessibility in Ukraine” Project is aimed to facilitate the decentralization reform. It was developed to improve the capacity of local self-government bodies to deliver high-quality services to the residents of Ukraine. The Project specifically focuses on supporting communities in the establishment and modernization of Administrative Service Centers (ASCs), improvement of access to services for citizens, and setting up a dialogue between the communities’ residents and authorities.
We spoke to Olga Glazunova, head of the Ukrainian team, on the changes in the Project aims since the beginning of the full-fledged war, interaction with ASCs, relocation programs, and urgent service requests from citizens.
Olga Glazunova, Team Leader of the PROSTO project in Ukraine during the project launch presentation in September 2021
— What did your team focus on since the full-fledged war began in Ukraine? Have your main goals changed, and have they changed at all since February 24?
— The aim of the Swedish-Ukrainian PROSTO “Support to Services Accessibility in Ukraine” Project is to facilitate the local authorities in providing public services to citizens. It has remained our unchanged focus, and the hostilities in Ukraine did not impact it. Of course, we had to adjust the directions and approaches to work.
In March and April, we tried to provide the necessary aid to communities within our core business, analyze their needs, and coordinate with other donors. We also launched a relocation program for ASCs employees to safer regions of Ukraine, psychological aid to employees and managers of ASCs, and conducted regular monitoring and analysis of the humanitarian situation and changes in service rendering and operation of ASCs in 140 communities.
Our Project provided crisis support to ASCs in the de-occupied territories of Kyiv, Zhytomyr, Sumy, and Chernihiv regions. The IT-equipment for services provision has been delivered to 13 liberated hromadas.
We take great effort in rendering expert aid in relation to IDPs (internally displaced persons) and explaining the mode of servicing during martial law.
Currently, almost all the Project activities have been adapted and resumed. Now we also have a new experience of work in wartime which would be useful for local self-government bodies (e.g., analysis of legislation changes in administrative service provision, recommendations on the current work and development of ASCs, mutual aid of communities at the LSB level with the example of transferring a mobile ASC from Slavuta to Borodianka communities, etc.). In addition, a trial period of a new activity aimed at improving the performance of starostas is in progress.
Vasyl Sydor, Head of Slavuta community, Heorhiy Yerko, acting Head of Borodianka hromada, and Petro Makarenko, expert at PROSTO, during the handover of the mobile ASC in Borodyanka. July 2022
— How do you interact with ASCs and directly with citizens?
We actively interact! We communicate with our partners and regularly conduct regional meetings with heads of ASCs from different regions to find out about their needs and discuss the current service situation with the representatives of the relevant regional state administrations and the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine.In July, we resumed the trainings and webinars on administrative service rendering. Plus, we plan to launch a separate training platform for heads of ASCs (you will see the announcements and details on our website). We also continue the support of establishing ASCs from scratch in 30 communities. Our aim is 50 ASCs in total.
ASC of Borodyanka hromada is temporarily operating in the school premises. July 2022
— You have a relocation program for ASCs employees. Could you explain the relocation procedure in more detail? Are there successful cases?
— It was the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, one of our beneficiaries, which offered the idea of supporting the internally displaced employees of ASCs. The aim of such support is workforce retention and temporary employment for ASCs employees who left the war-stricken regions. On our part, we offer an internship format to provide not just financial support but also an employment opportunity and thus support the hosts. The ministry provided us with a list of persons who wanted to become interns at ASCs in safer regions, and the Project made the necessary arrangements from both parts – host coordination and financial support of interns. The program is now complete. We provided support to 40 men and women within two months.
We consider all 40 cases to be successful because, for two months, people had a kind of stability and the opportunity to maintain and develop new professional skills. There were also cases of experience exchange as the internally displaced employees from larger ASCs became interns in smaller facilities and could share their ideas. After the relocation program was over, some interns got job offers from the ASCs they visited.
Tetiana Mishchenko and Yana Shevchenko from Derhachi ASC in Kharkiv region on the last day of their internship with their colleagues from the city of Ivano-Frankivsk. June 2022
— What obstacles did you encounter as you integrated the relocated employees and facilities?
— All of our interns are internally displaced persons, and a lot of them have no houses to return to. I think psychological pressure and stress is the main problem familiar to all Ukrainians who had to flee their homes into the unknown. Our experts tried to stay in touch with the interns throughout the program. They communicated and helped solve various arrangement issues. After the internship was over, we contacted the hosts with recommendations for the full-time employment of interns.
There were certain peculiarities in registration at the host ASCs, and the project aimed to simplify the process for both parties as much as possible. Indeed, internally displaced employees of ASCs were actually still employed at their previous workplaces, and it was important for our Project to keep the local authorities from spending the scarce budget funds at times like these. This is why we came up with the internship format. The experts developed an optimal algorithm for registering the interns and effecting payments to them.
In a lot of communities, ASCs turned into unofficial volunteer logistics centers: locals began collecting food, clothes, and household items there, and IDPs appealed to ASCs for help. — How would you describe the role of ASCs under martial law? How did war change the process of service rendering?
— We have noticed that the role of ASCs has dramatically changed, especially in settlements with efficient teams and synergy with the local authorities. An ASC in a community turned into the main hub of the interaction of citizens with the authorities. Residents go to ASCs with all kinds of requests. Often you can find humanitarian aid or psychological support in ASCs. In regard to the impact of war on the administrative service rendering, I would rather refer to legislation changes and limitations of martial law. We need to keep abreast of current events and closely monitor any changes. We should give credit to the Ministry of Digital Transformation: it promptly updates the ASCs and actively communicates on social media.
Our project monitors the changes and writes explanation posts together with our experts in the Law During the War initiative. Due to direct communication with local self-government bodies from different regions of Ukraine, we can effectively respond to the challenges and commonly solve systemic issues in discussions with the local authorities, the Ministry of Digital Transformation, and the Ministry for Communities and Territorial Development.
During the first months of the full-fledged war, the situation got out of control, especially in regions that hosted a lot of IDPs. ASC employees registered the IDPs and assistance to them 24/7. In addition, a lot of them took up volunteering, cooking charity meals, and accommodating people. In the majority of regions, the situation has stabilized. Of course, it still differs from the work before February 24.
During the delivery of IT equipment to de-occupied communities. Ivan Roznay, Byshiv village head, together with his deputy, representatives of PROSTO and Kyiv Regional Military Administration, near the destroyed ASC, which was located in the community's house of culture. June 2022
— What is the role of starostas in providing access to public services for community residents? Why is it important to conduct trainings and instructions for them?
— The institution of starostas can be considered a new element of local self-government. It was introduced in 2016 and transformed in 2020–2021. Its primary aim remains the same: providing proper representation and access to basic services in remote settlements within the territorial communities.
Making services closer to people is the key goal of our project. We support the establishment of remote workplaces in starosta counties, vesting certain ASC administration tasks into starostas, and using mobile ASCs to provide services in starosta counties. Currently, a new activity undergoes a trial period – increasing the efficiency of starostas. Seven pilot communities have been selected for it. For what concerns administrative services, the pilot period revealed that:
- In some settlements (former village councils, now starosta counties), the access to administrative services (Civil Status Registration Offices, social benefit registration) has deteriorated, but we have gradually solved these issues.
- File clerks need to be transferred to specialist departments (local self-government bodies officials); it will dramatically extend their functional capabilities, and the position prestige will improve. Local budgets will have to only slightly increase: the salary difference between the two professions is merely UAH 300 per month.
- The introduction of IT tools at starosta counties will help starostas interact with the community centers much faster, which results in a higher quality of service for residents. For example, if a citizen needs an excerpt from an account book, he or she appeals to the ASC for it. The administrator can retrieve the necessary data from the electronic system, and the citizen saves a visit to the starosta for a hard copy of the excerpt.
What concerns training, it is a must. We record high demand for training on notary services, IT skills, and communications. Starostas from the newly established counties which arose after the local elections in 2020 also demand general training on the functions of local self-government bodies, issues of basic administrative services, etc.
Olga Kalinichenko, expert at PROSTO, together with Alla Shostak, from The Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, and Nataliia Pohrebna, from Kyiv Regional Military Administration, during the meeting with village heads of Ivankiv community (Kyiv Region). June 2022
We intend to scale the results of our pilot trial, and soon there will be an invitation to communities for cooperation on starosta capacity-building.
— What advice would you give to ASC employees regarding communication with internally displaced persons?
— By the way, we have training dedicated to efficient communication with the clients! For what concerns IDPs, I do not think there are any special communication tips for this group. All our experts need to be equally humane, polite, tolerant, and willing to help regardless of the client. This is the basis of the state service. Of course, sometimes an employee needs to go the extra mile to keep up with this service level. It creates another issue: employees often disregard their own emotional state. I can only recommend heads of ASCs keep in touch with their teams to respond to “emergencies”, encourage their employees to appeal for psychological aid, and so on.
— What are the urgent needs of ASCs?
— They depend on the region and the size of the community. Not so long ago, our project presented the scenario for the operation and development of ASCs during martial law and in the post-war period. Our experts elaborated the algorithms for ASCs depending on the safety situation.
Generally, in order for ASC to continue working, it needs a stable connection to central executive bodies' information systems, resuming services put on hold after the full-fledged war, and integration of new services to ASC. However, safe work is the priority. As we held meetings with heads of ASCs in different regions, we were also told about the following urgent issues:
- integration of passport services because many State Migration Services in former district centers were closed, and people have to travel dozens of kilometers to get the necessary services;
- understaffed departments of state registrars of real estate and business. To get access to registers and service rendering, a state registrar needs to undergo a test developed by the Ministry of Justice, and testing was put on hold almost a year ago;
- cooperation issues may arise even within one local self-government body if an ASC cannot establish interaction with the social benefits department or residential registration department; and
- there is a great demand for resuming the eMaliatko service the clients of ASC got accustomed to.
— What plans put on hold since the full-fledged war do you think still need special attention now?
— We managed to resume the majority of the Project activities. Currently, advocating for legislative changes and population engagement and informing are on hold. Both directions are important. However, during the war, we prioritize supporting the Government and the local self-government bodies in terms of safety. Thus, as the advocating problems are less urgent, we help arrange the regulation processes upon the request of our beneficiaries – the Ministry of Digital Transformation and the Ministry for Communities and Territorial Development. We search for new approaches to involve and inform the population – it is important to understand how to engage the population as safely as possible during martial law.
The source: https://par.in.ua/information/publications/134