Public Chamber discusses draft law on social services
The first reading of the draft law on state orders for the provision of social services took place on 25 September. The Public Chamber will prepare comments on the framework.
Record best practices and ensure conditions
Member of the Public Chamber Elena Topoleva said that the quality of state social services depends on the presence of competition between different providers. She emphasised that a situation where the only service providers are budget institutions does not enable growth in competition, nor an increase in the effectiveness of the services, nor citizens’ satisfaction. Topoleva said that there has been significant progress in this area recently, with more non-state players entering onto the market and there is a positive trend especially in the field of social services. Yet barriers remain which stop this process from developing more quickly. One of the main problems is that the situation is very different across the regions: in certain regions, the new mechanisms of attracting non-governmental organisations onto the social services market are being actively introduced, but in other areas these mechanisms are not being used.
Topoleva reported that the Public Chamber had already carried out a public hearing on this draft law, but since then it has been reworked, piloted in several regions and proved its efficiency. The main aim of the draft law, according to the member of the Public Chamber, is to record best practices and ensure that they are recognised on a federal and regional level. This framework bill, which will ease access to the service market for non-governmental organisations, will create opportunities and legitimise tools which have appeared in certain regions.
Stable access to budget funds
International experience shows that non-governmental organisations should have guaranteed, stable access to budget funds, the Deputy Minister of Finances, Aleksey Lavrov, said. He underlined that the main innovation in the draft law under discussion is the introduction of the concept of a “state municipal order” itself. Lavrov said that as soon as this law comes into force, each body responsible for public services will have to publicly announce the scale of its social contract annually and allocate the available resources.
To ensure that non-governmental organisations are interested in participating in this process, the idea is to guarantee the same cost for provision of social services regardless of who is providing them – budget institutions or non-governmental organisations.
Moreover, it is intended to introduce changes to the legislation and ensure the possibility of reaching an agreement on service provision for a length of time that exceeds the period of validity of budgetary obligations, as well as to exempt social services from VAT. According to the deputy minister, the law will likely come into force in January 2020.
Citizens should have a choice
Member of the Public Chamber Lidia Mikheeva announced that according to the Constitution of the Russian Federation, Russia is a social state, but this does not mean that the state will directly provide essential services for each citizen. She explained that the state only acts as the organiser of the provision. According to Mikheeva, the correct approach is when citizens have the choice from several initiatives with which they can collaborate. She emphasised that it is important to guarantee citizens the choice. Mikheeva thinks that in the current economic reality, this draft law will create an organisational basis for such a choice and involve an active part of the population in the provision of social services.
Replicate successful practices
The Ministry of Economic Development has previously presented a report with information about supporting socially oriented non-profit organisations and information about implementing the complex of measures to facilitate these organisations’ access to the social services market in 2017. Testing of the draft law in pilot regions has shown growth in the number of services provided by non-commercial organisations from budgetary funds, the Director of the Department of Strategic Development and Innovation from the Ministry of Economic Development, Artem Shadrin, explained. In 2017 alone, social service provision by non-profit organisations doubled.
“We see the achievable potential of non-profit organisations and we think that these mechanisms, which have proved to be in demand in pilot regions, will be replicated everywhere. It seems very important to me that, at the same time, mechanisms to support non-commercial organisations are developed. Shadrin emphasised that when they see that they have a real chance to receive adequate compensation for their outgoings on social services, then the professionalisation of the sector will take place more rapidly”.
What the draft law does not take into account
Experts note that the current version of the bill contains in it a series of administrative barriers for access of non-governmental providers to the social service market. In particular, all providers are obliged to open an account with the treasury.
Moreover, it is essential to avoid the situation where the main criteria for choosing providers becomes how cheap the services are. Experts believe that weighting must be given to various criteria, so that the cheapness of services is not decisive.
Experts also emphasise that access to the social services market may be significantly more difficult for organisations providing unique services which are not on any recognised state lists of social services.
One other problem linked with the enforcement of new legislation, may be that the law only ensures support for the best regions, not stimulating development in those that lag behind.
According to the results of the first reading, the Public Chamber will prepare comments on the draft law “On state (municipal) orders for the provision of social services” and on the amendments to current legislation planned in connection with this law.
Experts explain the use of open data for NGOs
On 26 September, “Data Wednesday” took place in the Blagosfera centre under the title “How open data changes our life”.
Experts explained how open data influences the work of the Ministry of Culture and its work with citizens, why open data is important for business and how this is linked with citizens’ services and why it is important for NGOs.
As the director of the autonomous non-governmental organisation (ANO), Informational Culture, Ivan Begtin, explained in an interview with an ASI correspondent, similar meetings take place on average once every two weeks, all of them dedicated to the topic of data.
“I want to talk about working with the data we publish and about using the API (Application Programming Interface), helping developers use its pre-existing functionality for the correct operation of the app. I explain how to create public and commercial projects based on data”, Begtin said. According to him, the meeting in Blagosfera will be useful for those who provide services for typical citizens. For NGOs, it is important that the knowledge about open data allows them to reorganise their work, according to data published by the state.
The Deputy Director of the Ministry of Culture, Timur Aleinikov also took part in this ‘Data Wednesday’, as well as the General Director of a company for developing systems of artificial intelligence SocialDataHub, Artur Khachuyan. Guests of the event also had the chance to get to know the projects “Goszatrati” (clearspending.ru) and “Open NGOs” (openngo.ru) from the Committee of Civic Initiatives.
The moderator of the meeting was Vasily Burov, member of the expert committee for the Government.
The event, “Data Wednesday” was the winner of the competition “Pimp your Event” from the project “Professional communications for the non-profit sector” which is carried out using funds for the development of civil society from the Presidential Grants Fund