EU funds-related red tape will be reduced

The deputy prime minister for investments and informatisation improves the image of e-letterboxes; also by simplifying the process of submitting applications for EU money.

Illustrative stock photoIllustrative stock photo (Source: TASR)

“One time is enough” is a principle long sought by entrepreneurs in Slovakia when dealing with state bodies. It should work in a way that they will be required to submit necessary documents only once, and every other time the official authorities need them, they should find the information in respective databases.

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Now, it seems the public administration has moved closer to implementing that principle as Deputy Prime Minister for Investments and Informatisation Peter Pellegrini and Economy Minister Peter Žiga have launched a pilot project, allowing entrepreneurs to submit electronic applications for EU money. The representatives of entrepreneurs in Slovakia say, however, there is still a lengthy agenda that complicates the business-making process, costing them both time and energy.

Since it will not be necessary to submit the same number of attachments and confirmations as in its paper form, the system aims to not only reduce the red tape, but also save the time and money of applicants.

“The authorities have to use available registers in the 21st century, so people can devote their time to preparing better quality projects,” said Deputy PM for Investments and Informatisation Peter Pellegrini.

To submit an e-application for EU money, Pellegrini expects that entrepreneurs will use the e-letterboxes established by the National Agency for Network and Electronic Services (NASES) at the website. The use of these letterboxes will be mandatory for all corporate entities residing in Slovakia listed in the business register as of July 1, 2017.

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“We have often been told that the information campaign should not be focused only on asking entrepreneurs for fulfilling their duty by activating the e-letterboxes, but also on showing them the benefits,” Pellegrini said.

As of May 2, 2017, altogether 114,650 statutory representatives had an e-ID card with a chip and a personal security code, necessary for logging into the system, NASES informed.

Read also: The use of e-letterboxes still minimal Read more 

Less bureaucracy proposed

One of the main benefits of introducing e-applications is the reduction of red tape. Entrepreneurs will no longer be required to submit various documents from state bodies and authorities, like tax offices, the labour inspectorate, all three health insurers, the state-run social insurer Sociálna Poisťovňa, as well as criminal records and financial statements.

“The state already has all these documents in its databases, so it will be up to its institutions to find them when dealing with applications for money from the EU funds,” Pellegrini told the press.

Moreover, it will be possible to submit only the electronic application, without the need to send it via ordinary mail. This means that entrepreneurs will prepare an electronic application and necessary attachments, sign it with electronic signature and then send them via their e-letterboxes, Pellegrini explained.

He expects that entrepreneurs may save some €6-8 million in total through this measure.

“Every automation and electronisation is a step forward, but it is important to make it simple and user-friendly,” Peter Kremský, executive director of the Business Alliance of Slovakia, told The Slovak Spectator.

Entrepreneurs, however, still need to deal with excessive paperwork which might have been simplified, he opines.

“Politicians have long been promising to reduce the red tape, but in practice the opposite is happening as it keeps increasing,” added Ján Oravec, chair of the Association of Entrepreneurs in Slovakia, for The Slovak Spectator.

Read also: EcoMin proposes to cut ‘useless bureaucracy’ Read more 

More e-applications to be used

Pellegrini’s office is now testing the new system in cooperation with the Economy Ministry on a call to support small and medium-sized enterprises in the creative industry, situated in Bratislava Region, which was announced in late April.

This is, however, only the first step in reducing the red tape that businesses have to deal with. It should be, for example, also possible to electronically submit other documents linked with projects, like invoices, Pellegrini admitted.

Moreover, Žiga is ready to enable submission of e-applications for all other calls concerning EU money, launched by his department.

Pellegrini and Žiga also plan to motivate other ministries to allow businesses to submit e-applications for not only EU funds, but also public money.

“There should be a fully electronic system for those who don’t want to communicate with the state by ordinary mail, as it is defined in the concept of informatisation of public administration until 2020,” Pellegrini said.

Ján Hargaš of the Slovensko.Digital platform reminded of Pellegrini’s promise to introduce the “one time is enough” principle by the end of 2018. Seven months after adopting the concept, however, several deadlines have not been met.

“Unfortunately, it seems that the deputy PM has not managed the initial phase of the informatisation reform,” Hargaš told The Slovak Spectator.

Though the proposed change is a step towards the “one time is enough” principle, it will be more important when similar principles will be introduced for ordinary people as well, he added.

Kremský also warns the will and ability to improve the processes in state and public administration is still lacking.

E-letterboxes will change

In addition, the e-letterboxes will undergo certain changes. To make them more user-friendly, NASES carried out an online poll earlier this year, which was attended by some 400 respondents. The response to their comments should be the new design of the e-letterboxes that will “get a human spirit”, Pellegrini told the April 26 press conference, as reported by the TASR newswire.

The new design will be prepared with the help of experts from the Association of Digital Marketing Agencies and also representatives of Slovensko.Digital, who will help with the final testing.

“The electronic communication is a modern and quick way of communication for everybody open to new trends, as well as comfortable and quick communication with the state,” NASES head Norbert Molnár said, as quoted in a press release.

Except for the design, it will be possible to re-direct emails from the state e-letterbox to private emails, while the receipts should be more legible and understandable. There will also be a direct link to e-services or setting notifications at one place, TASR reported.

NASES promises to implement the design changes before July 1, while the other functionalities will be added later, Pellegrini said.

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