Russias MoL attacks regional barriers to NGO supply of social services
The Ministry has prepared recommendations for improvements in attracting NGOs to provide social services. Currently, coordinating bodies to ensure NGOs have access to the social services market are present in only 26 regions.
Together with the Ministry of Economic Development, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection has undertaken analysis of regional regulatory acts and identified a number of barriers preventing socially-orientated NGOs from gaining full access to the social services market.
“We have prepared recommendations for improving NGOs’ ability to provide social services that must be taken into account when finalising and implementing these regulatory acts. Primarily, excessive restrictions apply to the first step of market access – the inclusion of companies in the register of suppliers”, stated Alexei Vovchenko, the Deputy Minister for Labour and Social Protection.
In particular, the analysis highlighted that regional legislation includes requirements for NGOs to comply with national standards and for employees to meet professional standards which are not obligatory under federal legislation. The government stresses that current legislation allows for public oversight of the work of suppliers and independent evaluation of the quality of social services, and the requirement for workers to comply with professional standards is unnecessary.
Additional barriers to NGO access to the social services market include requirements relating to the registration of legal entities, as well as requirements for providers to commit to carrying out every individual service falling within one broader type of social service. The Ministry of Labour emphasises that the federal law contains no restrictions on inclusion in the register of organisations providing only one or more specific social service from one or more of the broader categories of service.
The government also notes that these lists do not take into consideration the activities of socially-orientated NGOs in providing services. It is recommended that the activities of NGOs and individual entrepreneurs be taken into account when developing lists of services in order to identify demand and services already being provided. Furthermore, the Ministry of Labour recommends holding public discussions in the councils of regional executive bodies, regional civic chambers, and NGO resource centres.
Yet another factor preventing NGOs from gaining full access to the social services market is the lack of consumer information about non-state providers and their services. In particular, the Ministry of Labour recommends making information available on the websites of regional authorities and ensuring it is searchable by specific service, type of service and geographic location of the provider.
Experts also noted the establishment of low and economically unsound tariffs on services, which are determined solely based on the practices of government agencies. When setting tariffs, regional authorities should take as a point of departure their economic justification and consider the activities of both state and non-state service providers.
Vovchenko also called on regional authorities to analyse procedures for reimbursing funds to NGOs once services have been provided. “In our view, repayment should take no more than one month. Yet in some cases up to six months is deemed acceptable. And this has nothing to do with the budgetary process. Therefore I request extremely careful analysis of regulations and tariffs, and the creation of real opportunities for NGOs to participate in the provision of social services”, said the deputy minister.
Vovchenko urged acceleration of the process of establishing regional coordinating bodies to organise NGO access to government funding and the adoption of work plans. These bodies currently exist in only 26 regions, while they are under development in a further 45. Work plans have been adopted in 17 regions, with development underway in 15 more. “This is very few. I request that work in this area be expedited. We must be absolutely clear about how we are going to implement the presidential decree and gradually achieve an increase in NGOs providing social services”, he declared.
According to official data, the number of NGOs providing such services grew from 95 in 2013 to 223 in 2015. 547 NGOs are registered as providers, of which 377 are non-profit. The Ministry of Labour singles out the Republic of Bashkortostan, the regions of Perm, Stavropol, Tyumen and Novosibirsk, and Saint Petersburg as being amongst the leaders in attracting non-state providers. The deputy chair of the Federation Council Galina Karelova has also identified Moscow region, Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area and Khabarovsk region as particularly successful.
From her point of view, one of the most important tasks at the moment is the development of support infrastructure for NGOs, providing them with methodological, legal and project assistance. “There are regions where there are not yet any resource centres or centres for social innovation”, says Karelova. Underdeveloped support structure hinders NGO development and negatively impacts on the total amount of social services provided. “It is vital to more quickly overhaul the relationship between social protection bodies and NGOs and organisations designed to support them. We all need to learn to see NGOs as partners of the state. Their development and participation in the implementation of public procurement for social services will depend on this”, she says. Karelova emphasises that movement towards privatisation of social services is beneficial to all parties and requires the participation of every region.
Successful regions’ experience of ensuring NGO access to government funds for the provision of social services should be replicated, emphasises the Civic Chamber’s Elena Topoleva. “Sometimes even neighbouring regions do not learn from those who have achieved something”, she says. According to Topoleva, an important step is the identification of non-profit organisations which are already providing services to citizens, as well as information and training: “it is necessary to look at the extent of demand for them and how they can be supported”. She gave the example of Tyumen region, where the Charitable Fund for the Development of the City of Tyumen has received government support to train NGOs to enter the social services market.
Measures to enable NGO access to budgetary funds allocated for the provision of social services were approved by the government in May. This was followed by the road map ‘Support for NGO access to the provision of social services’.