Kyrgyzstan: Bridging the gap between government and people
Bekzat Usenkanov, 35, says he never thought that one day he would become a public watchdog because his keen interest has always been in new communication technologies.
He spent several years studying abroad. Upon return to Kyrgyzstan, Mr. Usenkanov encountered problems when he attempted to start a project on optical fiber technologies with foreign investors. After a year of struggle with government bureaucracy, slow legal processes and delays, he lost his investors and his start-up.
“I had no idea it would be this difficult to deal with our government agencies,” said Mr. Usenkanov. “I was really frustrated because inefficiency cost the country income tax revenues and cost me my business.
“I felt that something should be done to change the situation. So, when I had the chance to become a member of the Public Advisory Board, I did not hesitate for long. Although it was voluntary and unpaid work, I took the role because I wanted to see my country develop and serve its people,” said Mr. Usenkanov.
Public Advisory Councils, special oversight bodies within many government institutions, were organized by the new government after the violent uprising in April 2010 that ousted the president.
The overall idea of forming this new body in the country was to make the government more transparent and accountable and regain the trust of people.
Members of Public Advisory Councils represent various professional, academic and ethnic backgrounds united by the ideas of improving the work of government institutions.
UNDP’s Capacity Development Facility project co-funded by the Open Society Foundations provides support to strengthen Public Advisory Councils through a series of peer-to-peer trainings. At these workshops, they discuss both good and bad practices in interacting with relative government institutions and within the Councils themselves.
Mr. Usenkanov is a member of Public Advisory Committee at the State Property Management Fund. The Committee uncovered a corruption scheme leading to embezzlement. Despite threats and obstacles, the Committee stood firm and demanded that the written-off money be returned to the budget. By now, the state budget has received back around 120 million soms of the estimated 300 million embezzled through the abovementioned corruption schemes.
“I think we have made steps in terms of transparency,” said Mr. Usenkanov. “We are already seeing positive dynamics in the changing attitudes of government officials and we all realize that we should work together to make the lives of our people better.”
The Capacity Development Facility project was launched in 2010 to help reform the public administration system and improve public and municipal services.
The project helped to optimize the number and processes of delivering services. After a revision by a special task force, the number of services provided by the government was reduced from 21,000 to 385. Currently, the government is working on new standards that will be used to evaluate the services properly and increase efficiency.
“People want their voices to be heard when decisions are made about how public services should be delivered to them,” said Ainura Kaparova, Capacity Development Facility Project Coordinator.
“They want someone looking after and speaking up for interests of their communities. The Government initiative on reforming and improving public and municipal services is bringing about some positive changes already – the Government is starting to focus on the needs of service users instead of providers as before.”
The same work is being done in all municipal services. A streamlined list and a single standard for delivery of these services at the local level will increase their quality and availability to the public.
The next important step will be to convert all these services into an electronic format to save money and time of citizens, and to reduce corruption in public services.