Once Only, the single collection of data
One of the basic principles of administrative simplification is making sure that data should be collected once only by the administrations. A study commissioned in 2018 confirms that Brussels citizens’ number one demand is for user data to be better communicated among administrations. The regulatory and technical implementation of this principle is a priority at European level.
Following consultation with the Federal Administrative Simplification Agency (ASA), several administrations and regional PIBs (BRPS, Brussels Environment and Actiris), Easybrussels proposed to the Brussels Government a draft order for applying the Once Only principle to the Brussels administrations, at both regional and local level. Among the most important measures we would mention:
- The obligatory use of a unique identification key in forms (National Register or Crossroads Bank of Enterprises number) to identify users (citizens or enterprises). Use of this key would be a condition for being able to consult the authentic sources.
- The obligation for administrations to consult the authentic sources in the exercise of their legal duties in order to lighten the administrative load on their users.
- The possibility for citizens and businesses to report any form that does not conform to the Once Only principle.
Based on the experience of the ASA, which has applied similar rules at federal level since 2014, Easybrussels will also propose an operational plan to the Brussels Government in order to help administrations and institutions to implement this principle. Public agents were introduced to it in the “Once Only” seminar on 6 December 2018. Federal and regional administrations, notably eWBS (the Wallonia-Brussels simplification accelerator) and the Flemish Government, took part to share their experiences. The BRIC and Easybrussels also presented the stakes involved and the technical and regulatory aspects of the use of authentic sources in the Brussels-Capital Region.
In 2018, Easybrussels submitted an application for support under the European Commission’s Structural Reform Support Programme. This scheme aims to provide EU States with tailor-made support to carry out administrative reforms, from analysis and preparation of measures through to effective implementation.
Easybrussels’ application, relating to the reinforcement of the Once Only principle in the Brussels administrations was selected. By means of a study which will take place over the course of 2019, the obstacles to implementation of this principle will be analysed and specific solutions proposed. The budget allocated to this project by the European Commission amounts to €390,000.
RECOMMANDATIONS FOR 2019
The administration’s new missions: to initiate and embody change
In order to better accomplish its mission, the regional administration must incorporate an educational dimension into its public service projects, in particular to familiarise citizens with the new tools that have been put in place. To do this, it is essential to train the personnel and to conduct an overall reflection on the methods of communication, the tools used, the costs involved and the necessary upstream work.
The technological vigil and the development of new applications will lead administrations to rethink their business lines and services and to create new ones. The human resources of the future will have to adapt to allow the civil servant 3.0 to emerge. He will have to be able to position himself as the missing link between the Smart City and the user. The stress now has to be placed on training and the recruitment of new profiles.
Develop the DPS network in all districts
In view of the limited number of Digital Public Spaces (DPS) existing and the sociological study carried out in 2017 on digital inclusion in the Brussels districts, Easybrussels recommends releasing sufficient resources to deploy a solid network of DPS and encouraging citizens to use them. Easybrussels also wishes to support mobile DPS mobiles in 2019, allowing more specific target groups to be reached.
The administrations of the Smart City
Administrative simplification is an element essential to the Smart City. Citizens must be able to obtain information and perform their processes online at all times. Easybrussels recalls the need to provide the budgets necessary for adapting pubic roads and infrastructure to these needs and encourages administrations to explore the world of the Internet of Things (IoT).
To allow all Brussels residents and all visitors easily to obtain clear information, the Region must integrate itself in the Single Digital Gateway by putting welcoming portals in place. At European level, it must deploy sufficient resources to enable the regional and local administrations to attain these technological objectives in a harmonised manner.
Savings that make sense: the new tools in the service of change
In the interests of saving on time, money, processes and travel, Easybrussels stresses the attraction of certain tools. The development of authentic sources makes the Once Only principle a reality — users no longer have to provide the same information repeatedly.
The eBox offers each citizen al secure mailbox on a federal platform, leading to an appreciable reduction in the number of dispatches by registered mail and the associated costs, which take up a very substantial part of administrations’ budgets.
Stimulate the administrations’ participation even more
Easybrussels has seen how effective the working groups are at local level in collaboration with Brulocalis. Inter-municipality bodies and police zones also take part in the work as guests, less regularly but with definite interest. In the Region, the work is more clearly demarcated, but Easybrussels regrets the fact that not all administrations participate equally in the work. It is essential that all Brussels administrations take part so that the agency can monitor consistently and harmonise progress.
The human resources of the future must adapt to let 3.0 local government officers emerge.
THE 2020-2025 SIMPLIFICATION PLAN
The 2015-2020 plan concentrates essentially on the priorities imposed by the EU Directives: online public bidding processes, electronic invoicing, and to a lesser extent open data, where the deadlines are not constraining.
The resources of Easybrussels and of the participating administrations both regional and local have been invested in these legal priorities, leaving them little time for their core business and any innovations associated with the socio-economic realities of the Brussels population.
In 2018, Easybrussels proposed to its steering committee that an early start be made on preparing the 2020-2025 administrative simplification plan and that its scope of action be widened to take in citizens’ concerns. Two reflection sessions, called laboratories of ideas or Easy Lab, were held, one in May and one in November 2018. The participating administrations proposed specific solutions for each business line application and stressed the importance of recourse to citizen participation. A satisfaction survey of Brussels residents focusing on their interactions with the regional administrations was initiated.
The conclusions of this study, shown in the box hereunder, allowed the steering committee to take account of citizens’ experience and to develop solutions that were really appropriate to their needs.
By responding in particular to the desire to decompartmentalize and rationalize the structures, the gain of efficiency and to deploy the Smart City, the plan of administrative simplification 2020 – 2025 of Easybrussels fits perfectly in the Strategy 2025 of the Brussels-Capital Region.
Improve communication and coordination between administrations, particularly by sharing data.
The main actions proposed:
- Improve communication and coordination among administrations, particularly through data sharing.
- Improve citizens’ access to information (on the Brussels institutional landscape, on administrative procedures, on the status of their files or of projects concerning them, etc.).
- Simplify and harmonise administrative procedures while at the same time reducing their number.
- Strengthen the resources (budgets, manpower, training) allocated to administrative simplification and digitisation projects.
For the period 2020-2025, the steering committee also wishes:
- to communicate more with citizens, particularly through social media (Once Only).
- to improve the readability of the websites.
- to use the new technologies to facilitate citizens’ lives.
- to include an open data test in the design of all new regulations, similar to the Equal Opportunities test, to ensure that regulations take account of the possibility of data sharing.
Other recommendations of the steering committee:
It is imperative to facilitate access to online administrative processes while at the same time preserving the direct, human service so valued by Brusseleers. There is a category of the population that feels able to carry out online processes but prefers to do so at the virtual counter of its administrations, with the reassuring presence of the official embodying public service. In addition to their basic duties, public service agents must therefore be capable of accompanying citizens in their online administrative processes.
Civil servants must be taught digital skills, since these are destined to become an integral part of their jobs. There must also be spaces in administrations and associations to allow for citizens who are under-digitised and/or do not have computer equipment to be welcomed.
It is important to facilitate access to online administrative procedures, while maintaining a direct and human service, that is valued by citizens of Brussels.