ePetitions management system in the city of Constanta (EAR)

Published on: 06/06/2007

Since 2004 the Romanian city of Constanta gives its citizens the opportunity to find their registered petition anytime and at any stage of its resolution course through the use of a Document Management System. Due to the large volume of documents administered by this public institution, it was necessary to computerise its management by constituting the electronic registry. The benefits are both reduction of time to submit and solve petitions, decrease in paper consumption by electronic signatures and the delivery of electronic services to people, companies and other public institutions, by being able to find out how their application was solved and to download the ellectronically signed files.

Policy Context

The functions offered by the document management application are consistent with the objectives imposed by the European Union within the initiative “e-Europe”, as well as with the Strategy of Romanian Government regarding the Computerisation of Public Administrations HG no. 1007/2001, by which it is settled the need for computerisation of the document management in the local and central public administration, through services of computerised document record, electronic recording, electronic signatures on documents, monitorization of the document flow and offering the consumers (people, companies, other public institutions) electronic services. With a view to increasing the transparency and the openness of public institutions, recommended by the government and the European Union, the application extends, by the XML WebServices, real time electronic services and information (council decisions, mayor orders, necessary documents for various types of requests, downloading typified forms, request monitorization, visualizing the electronically signed documents). Laws of general interest, like Law 544/2001 regarding free access to information of public interest, Law 52/2003 on decisional transparency, have imposed the use of modern computerized technologies in order to answer to the legislative demands regarding the supply of public interest information in real time and unrestricted, especially in the context of Romania acceding to the European Union. On the other side, the beneficiaries of the information administered by the public institutions have become more aware of the rights they have in the relation with these institutions, increasing considerably both the quantity and the quality of their demands. Under these circumstances, the only feasible solution, which may allow every public institution the answer to each of these demands, is the electronic document management, which represents a part of the policy of creating a computerised society that the Romanian Government promotes.

Description of target users and groups

The application is addressed to the public institution employees, as well as to citizens, companies or other public institutions. At the moment, it is being used by 514 employee of the Constanta City Hall; 225 - Taxes and Duties Office; 149 - County Council Constanta; 218 - General Department for Social Assistance and Children's Protection Constanta.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

The project was implemented as a pilot at the end of 2004 in Constanta City Hall. At first it was developed a set of basic modules to allow the devising of the electronic registry and following the path of the documents. At the same time, there were implemented the services XML WebServices which allow the application to communicate with the exterior and the exchange of information. Throughout the years 2005 and 2006, at the users’ request, additional functional characteristics and modules were added to the application: the follow-up of contracts and the administration of urbanism documents. The electronic signature was implemented in the year 2005 by purchasing qualified certificates of electronic signatures within the project “e-PMC” financed by the European Union in the PHARE Program. The managerial team of the institution had an important role in ensuring the success of the project: monitoring the way the users were using the application, requesting reports on the documents which were not solved in due time or on the work amount of each employee, all these had a visible and immediate impact upon all users.

Technology solution

The D.M.application communicates with the web site of the institution through a XML WebService to offer electronic services to those interested; the information in XML format are taken and posted suggestively on the web page. Those interested can find out details on their request (where it is now, how it was solved, which is the answer) either by accessing the electronic service “Find out where is your application” on the web page of the institution, or automatically receiving by e-mail all the necessary information each time the status of the application changes.

Main results, benefits and impacts

Employees at any organizational level may see their working documents, they can electronically sign them and can search any information they need related to other connected documents. The managers of the institution can check the quantum of work of each employee, what type of documents each works on, as well as the way they complete their tasks in due time, which are the documents that were not solved in due time, who is responsible for the delay, etc. The citizens, companies or other public institutions can find out details on their request by using the institution web site or services like XML WebServices (at the moment, this service is used by over 400 users / day), but they also can find out about the Local Council Decisions or other normative acts of public interest issued by the institution. The public institutions which perform a frequent exchange of documents can follow by means of the application, or by the XML WebServices at their disposal, which is the path and purpose of the documents addressed to other institution which implemented the document management application, with a view to integrating with other applications. The consumers of public interest information supplied by the the XML WebServices can be other as well which offer various information to the public. All the following information compare the period before the implementation of the application in year 2004 (when the registration of the documents was manual, on paper) with the period following the implementation – year 2007. Creating several front-offices for registering the applications, their number increased considerably from an average of 200 registrations per day to an average of 700 registrations/ day (at the same time, it was eliminated the time wasted on staying in line for the registration of an application). The time needed for finding a document decreased considerably, from a few hours (in the best scenario), or a few days (the most frequent scenario), to a few seconds, using multiple searching criteria. The access to information is immediate, by viewing the content of the attached and electronically signed documents. The average length of solving a request has decreased from an average of 60 days to 21 days (the maximum term stipulated by law being 30 days). Obviously, the number of grievances for unsolving in due time has decreased from an average of 2800 per year in the period 2003 – 2004 to 370 per year in 2005 – 2006. The number of situations of loss of documents was practically eliminated, by creating the electronic archive. The consumption of paper and toner was reduced with 38% after the implementation of the electronic signature.

Return on investment

Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available

Track record of sharing

The success of the project in the Constanta City Hall (the second largest city hall in Romania) has led other public institutions to require the implementation of this application. Thus, in the year 2005, the project was implemented in the Public Office for Taxes and Duties Constanta (225 users), then in 2006 it was implemented in the Constanta County Council (149 users), at the beginning of 2007 at the General Department for Social Assistance and Children’s Protection (218 users). The flexibility and modularity of the application made it easy to adjust to the specificity of each institution, which, although they have in common the fact that they are large public institutions, with many employees, have an organizational structure that varies, they work with different types of documents and operate by different organizational rules and procedures. With very few adjustments (configurating the lists of given data and the institution organization chart), the application can be implemented in any institution, of any kind, adjusting in a dynamic way with their specificity and operating regulations. Within the twinning program closed by Constanta City Hall and the City Hall of Genova (Italy), it was analyzed and discussed the level of informatization of the two partners, the informatics system in the City Hall of Constanta being considered to be an example of good practice which could be successfully implemented in the Italian public administration.

Lessons learnt

Lesson 1 - The success of implementing an application determines its beneficiaries to split time in “now” and “before”. The return to “before” is unconceivable. To offer less (the functional characteristics of the application) is no longer possible. A successful application becomes a part of the users’ normal every day activities, like reading an email, or answering a phone call. The language of the users changes, using expressions specific for the application as something natural. From this moment a project can be considered to be successful. Lesson 2 - There are no Informatics Technologies too advanced to be implemented, there are no too poorly prepared users to use an application; there is only the deficient planning of the implementation, the wrong timing for implementing a certain stage of the project ; the choice of these moments varies from case to case, depending on the particularities of each. Lesson 3 - No application, no matter how performant, can be successful if there is not the political will of the beneficiary to use that particular application. In most cases there is the users’ opposition to change; under such circumstances, the managerial team of the respective institution has an ultimate role in surpassing this barrier, on which it fully depends the success of the implementation.

Scope: Local (city or municipality)