Bogdan Laban, Mayor Of Subotica:

Digitisation Pioneers

Subotica took the initial steps towards digitising the work of city services three decades ago, and those was the first such steps in Serbia. Today this city in the north of Vojvodina has e-Services solutions for various situations faced by citizens and the economy

Subotica’s local self-government applies an information system that enables e-Government to also function in the languages of national minorities, ensuring these possibilities are accessible to everyone. The benefits of new technological trends are utilised the most by builders, which is why Subotica last year walked away with a special recognition for achieving the best results in the issuance of e-permits.

To what extent has digitisation and the introduction of e-Government improved the efficiency of your city services?

– Subotica was the first city in the Republic of Serbia, already in 1989, to replace manual entries of received items with automatic data processing, and that was the first form of digitisation in the work of city services. This digitisation enabled faster and more efficient work, i.e. recording and searching items, both for the needs of applicants, on the one hand, and for the needs of the bodies of the City and the City Administration, on the other.

The General Voter Register of Subotica was established in 1994, while the city website was established in 1997. The application of the General Voter Register remained in place until the instant the Ministry of State Administration and Local Self-Government introduced the Unified Voters Register in 2012.

Subotica was also the first in Serbia, in 2002, to set up an application for a virtual registrar. For the needs of the Service Centre, which operates within the framework of the City Administration, a call-in system was set up in 2004, in order to ease access for applicants when it comes to exercising their rights and obligations.

Subotica was the first city in Serbia, in 2002, to set up an application for a virtual registrar

The “Contact Centre 024” was established in the second half of 2011, with the aim of establishing better communication between city authorities and citizens, in order to help ensure problems can be solved in the most efficient way. By using the services of the “Contact Centre 024”, citizens are identified, but their data remains confidential. Citizens can submit questions and report problems related to all areas within the competence of local self-government. Communication is achieved via telephone calls, SMS, websites, Twitter, email address and personally, on the premises of the City Administration’s service centre.

In the operations of the City Administration of the City of Subotica other applicable software is also used for, among other things, budgetary operations, property inventory, the bidding and leasing of agricultural land, applications in the field of veterans’ and invalidity protection and in the area of social care for children.

The work of the City Administration and bodies of the City of Subotica is also characterised by respect for the rights of national minorities, both in direct communication with applicants and in the adoption of all acts, given that, in accordance with the Statute of the City, there is equal use of the Serbian, Hungarian and Croatian languages and scripts.

Thanks to the Government of Serbia, as well as the set of laws adopted that encourage the development and improvement of the work of the state administration, and in particular the adoption of the new Act on General Administrative Procedure (ZUP) and the development of e-Government, the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self- Government enabled the exchange of the most frequently used sets of data through the e-ZUP Information System, with the aim of improving and simplifying exchanging of data from official records ex officio.

This creates significant time savings for applicants, while applicants are also exempted from paying national and local administrative fees, while the administration becomes a service working in the service of citizens, because “good governance” is counted among the fundamental human rights of the European Union and represents one of the main goals of reforms that are currently being implemented.

The microfilming of city administration archives would be an investment that would primarily result in savings in the budget of the City of Subotica

With the help of e-ZUP, City Administration staff can gain access in seconds to all necessary documents on citizens. This saves a lot of time and procedures, both for citizens and civil servants.

– The City Administration of Subotica is – in accordance with the Regulation on the Acquisition and Transfer of Factual Data on the Official Records and Instructions for Completing Application Forms for Access to Official Records (ZPSE) for local selfgovernment units, and with regard to the start of the application of electronic data exchange through the e-ZUP application and the plan to include official bodies as users of this service on the e-Government Portal – brought the necessary authorisations for officials – system administrators – as well as authorisations for officials.

On the basis of authorisation, these officials can obtain data from official records of other bodies that are necessary for decision-making in administrative procedures within their jurisdiction, as well as accessing and submitting data from official records available to the City Administration to other bodies, upon their request, for the purposes of implementing administrative procedures under their jurisdiction, with which Subotica became involved in e-ZUP’s operational processes.

In which sectors do you see the greatest room to introduce elements of digitisation in the future organisation of the City Administration?

– The greatest need for the introduction of elements of digitisation in the near future is in the archives of the City Administration.

Due to the large number of cases, the constant need to expand archive space, archiving costs and the mandatory legal deadline of 30 years for maintaining records, as envisaged by the Guidelines and Regulation on the office operations of state administration bodies and the Law on Cultural Goods, the microfilming of archives would be an investment that would primarily result in savings in the budget of the City of Subotica.

On the other hand, the advantages offered by microfilming are multifaceted and reflected in improving working conditions in the archive, faster and more accurate information, easier distribution of information, simple access to all archived items, as well as improving the efficiency of operations and the operationality of work. Microfilming also represents an important resource for security, given that one of the goals is to ensure important documents are protected against loss and damage.

Which electronic services are most often used by Subotica’s citizens and entrepreneurs?

– The most commonly used is the Central Information System’s unified procedure for issuing building permits, which was established in January 2016, within the Secretariat for Construction of Subotica, and in accordance with the Law on Planning and Construction.

The City of Subotica is the recipient of a special award for the best results in issuing electronic permits among the city administrations of Serbia in 2016, which was awarded by the National Alliance for Local Economic Development (NALED).

Other electronic services that are also used include the “Contact Centre 024”, “Ask the Mayor” and “Baby, Welcome to the World”.