Duma approves law to give NGOs access to some social services
Legislation to provide NGO access to social services: A package of social measures has now been agreed
On 7 July, the Russian State Duma approved a Federation Council Bill on a “State (Municipal) Social Programme for the Provision of State (Municipal) Social Services” which was introduced in 2018.
“Amidst the rather voluminous text there is one part I really like, namely Article 9, Section 12. This states that tendering procedures for providing State (Municipal) services shall grant the authority of an approved body to allow NGOs who have been officially recognised as providers of socially useful services, or NGOs that meet the requirements set out in Article 9, Section 3, to participate in tendering exercises”, said Pavel Gamolsky, ASI President of the “Club of Accountants and Auditors of Non-Profit Organisations”. In Gamolsky’s opinion, the law will enable NGOs to gain access to the social services market.
“A few years ago NGOs tried to provide professional medical services to local people in one of Russia’s north-western regions. In doing so, they had to contend with some unfair policies of regional authorities who put a number of financial obstacles in their way. It wasn’t that the authorities objected to involving NGOs in the provision of social services but more down to their claim that an NGO could receive more than 10 roubles for administering a single intra-muscular injection. When asked how they had arrived at such a figure, a regional authority spokesperson replied that it was “based on the monthly salary of a registered nurse, divided by the total average number of injections given over the same period. The regional authority also said that financing other NGO expenses for items such as syringes, medical gowns and gloves, not to mention administration costs, was out of the question. The law will put an end to this unfairness”, said Gamolsky.
However, this will not apply to all areas of activity, just those that are specifically referred to in the legislation. These are social services (except those provided for in-patient care), health spa treatments (except for those services offered under the aegis of State social care), palliative care, ways of promoting the development of the tourism industry, sports training and promoting employment opportunities. Although mentioned in the text of the Bill, education is not among the list of activities included in the social package plan for 2021-2024.
The law will come into force on 1 September in Russian areas to be confirmed by the Government and will be valid until 1 January 2025. “The legislation will in effect be a four-and-a-half-year pilot exercise in regions to be decided by the State. I hope the trial is successful and that the law is ultimately extended to cover the whole country”, said Gamolsky.
According to the RIA Novosti information agency, this law is just one of a number of initiatives which have been adopted. In particular, public services provided as part of agreements made under the State (Municipal) Social Programme legislation will be exempt from VAT. This should help level up the amount of tax paid by State organisations and SONGOs.
RIA Novosti also reported that a new type of subsidy for providing public social services has been added to the federal budget code which allows State budget funds to be redistributed among those offering services. In order to receive this grant, a service provider must not have any outstanding debts with the public legal entity that is offering it. Any unused balance from the subsidy may be retained if all contractual obligations have been met.
TASS also reported that a package of social service measures was agreed at a meeting of the Federation Council held on 8 July. “New instruments have been introduced to include NGO participation in the provision of social services. One of them is a social certificate which enables citizens to choose which organisation they would like to offer a particular service”, said Galina Karelova, Vice-Speaker of the Federation Council.