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Bosilovo Vasilevo Novo Selo - joint administration bodies

From Municipal Cooperation

Bosilovo Vasilevo Novo Selo - joint administration bodies
Service Areas: Administrative Services and Tasks, Urban Planning
Country: Macedonia
Municipalities: Novo Selo, Vasilevo, Bosilovo
Contact persons: Tuse Stojanov, Aleksandar Stojkov, Milan Andonov
Legal form: Contractual
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Coordinates: 41° 25' 5" N, 22° 52' 46" E

Description of the problem/need for IMC

In 2005, smaller and predominantly rural municipalities in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia faced an exceptional challenge in the symmetrical decentralization of competencies in terms of absorbing and implementing the whole package of transferred competencies. Thus, the need emerged for creating a joint administration of three municipalities in these competencies and achieving the most efficient and effective implementation of all transferred competencies.

The objective of the IMC is to reduce the administrative costs and to increase the operability of the municipalities involved. In this way, the quality of the services delivered to the citizens of each partner municipality will also increase.

Description of the IMC practice

The legal basis for cooperation consists in the following steps: First, the Decision of the Municipal Councils of Bosilovo, Vasilevo and Novo Selo on the Establishment of Joint Administration Bodies was adopted (September 2005). Then, an agreement was signed on the number of personnel in each unit, their positions and the required terms of reference for each job in the joint administration bodies of the municipalities of Bosilovo, Vasilevo and Novo Selo (October 2005). Next, another agreement was signed, which included the use of premises and equipment, financial procedures, and mode of separating the joint administration bodies (established by the Decision of the Councils of the Municipalities of Bosilovo, Vasilevo and Novo Selo in October 2005). Finally, the Agreement on the Financing of the Joint Administration Bodies was signed.

Concerning operations, the civil servants carry out their daily duties in the seat of the administrative bodyaccording tothe monthly Work Plan agreed by the mayors of the Municipalities of Bosilovo, Vasilevo and Novo Selo. Additional activities are carried out by a previously issued order of the mayor of the municipality where they will be performed and of the mayor of the municipality in which the seat of the joint administration body is located.

Municipality of Novo Selo:

  • Spatial and urban planning, issuance of decisions on site conditions, and licences for the construction of buildings of local importance (regulated by the Laws on Spatial and Urban Planning, Construction, Spatial and Construction Land Management, and Environment Protection) are assigned to the administrative body whose organizational operations are within the municipal administration of the Municipality of Novo Selo as the Urban Planning, Construction and Environment Protection Unit. The seat of the body is in the administration premises of the Municipality of Novo Selo.
  • This Unit ensures the conditions and operations of the urban planning system, the type and contents of the plans, their drafting and the procedures for their approval and implementation, as well as monitoring of their implementation, particularly in villages and for non-populated areas. The Unit also manages the decision-making procedures on site conditions for construction, according to the Law on Spatial and Urban Planning, as well as issuance of Category III, IV, and V construction licences in compliance with the Law on Construction. The Unit also deals with other issues provided in the above laws.
  • The Urban Planning, Construction and Environment Protection Unit creates the conditions for improving and protecting the environment, enabling citizens to achieve their rights to a healthy environment.
  • The organizational structure of the Unit is as follows: the Head of the Unit; the Associate for the Issuance Procedures for Construction Licences; the Associate for the Issuance Procedures on Construction Licences; the Senior Associate for Creating and Monitoring the Procedures for Urban Plan Approval; the Senior Environment Protection Associate; and an Independent Geodetic Officer.

At present, positions as the Unit Head and Senior Environment Protection Associate are not filled.

Municipality of Vasilevo:

  • The joint Unit for the Administration of Taxes, Fees and Other Administrative Revenues in the Municipality of Vasilevo operates within the Finance, Budget and LED Unit, because the Civil Servants Agency has not yet prepared the regulation for the job positions of the joint administration of the local self-government units. This Unit is managed by the Mayor.
  • The objective of this Unit is to deliver quality services such as: regular updating of data on the taxpayers of the three municipalities; follow-up on the changes in the tax records and profiles of each taxpayer; issuance of property and communal tax decisions for the taxpayers of the three municipalities; and monitoring of the property and communal tax collection for the legal and natural entities.
  • This Unit is located in the Administration Office of the Municipality of Vasilevo, and carries out its duties through the following organizational structure: the Head of Unit;theAssociate for the Administration and Collection of Taxes and Fees; Associate for Identification and Registration of Property;anIndependent Tax Issuance Officer; and a Tax Accountant.

Currently, the position of Head of Unit is vacant. One of the civil servants of the Unit lives in the Municipality of Novo Selo, one in the Municipality of Bosilovo and two in the Municipality of Vasilevo.

Municipality of Bosilovo:

  • In the municipal administration of each municipality, there should be a separate Inspectorate for Communal Affairs and Environment Protection in accordance with the Law on Communal Affairs, the Law on Environment, the Law on Nature Protection and other provisions. The Inspection Unit located in the Administration Office of the Municipality of Bosilovo inspects all activities of municipal competencies, excluding the inspection of communal affairs. Supervision of the municipal competencies is carried out by:theHead of the Inspection Unit;anAdviser on Municipal Urban Planning;an Adviser on Road and Traffic;anAdviser on Tax Supervision;the Adviser on Culture, Education, and Sport; the Catering and Tourism Inspector.Currently, the positions are vacant for the Head of the Inspection Unit and the Catering and Tourism Inspector.

Financing

Total costs – expenditures for salaries and other remunerations of the joint administration bodies are covered by the three municipalities. Each municipality covers salaries and other remunerations for the employees of the unit located in the respective municipality. The municipalities counterbalance possible disparity in salaries and other remunerations by determining the average payment (per month), and the excess amount is compensated by the other two municipalities. For the expenditures arising from additional needs, the Mayors sign separate written agreements.

The sustainability of the IMC activities is achieved by implementing the competencies: the units provide the necessary revenues. The common motivations are the savings of resources by reducing expenditures; continuous cooperation between municipal bodies, councils and mayors; and continuous cooperation between the municipal administrations and delivery of quality services as a result of qualified and trained personnel and cutting-edge equipment (concentrated in one unit).

In terms of accountability, the following actions are aimed at improving performance: regular updating of the webpages of the three municipalities; regular announcements, press conferences and participation in the citizen meetings; printing of a newsletter in the three municipalities (currently once a year); printing of brochures with various administrative procedures for the citizens; and a citizen satisfaction questionnaire available at the Citizens Service Centres. It should be also noted that the questions addressing council members are answered once a month in the Council Session.

Monitoring and evaluation are carried out through a weekly report on implemented and ongoing activities of the three units (submitted to the mayors) and the preparation of an Annual Work Plan for each civil servant (including the civil servants employed in the three joint administration units) submitted to the mayors and the Civil Servants Agency. The performance of civil servants is evaluated against the Work Plan. In addition, the mayor of the municipality where the seat of the joint administration body is located controls IMC’s performance directly. Other mayors control it indirectly. Moreover, there is a Document Management System installed in the municipalities, providing electronic document flow between Citizen Service Centres and joint units, while mayors and heads of units monitor the quality and timeliness of the administrative procedures and services.

Establishment of the IMC practice

In accordance with Article 61 of the Law on Local Self-Government, the mayors of the three municipalities jointly undertook and forwarded the Initiative to Establish Joint Administration Bodies to the Councils of the Municipalities, which was later discussed and adopted during their sessions. In the initiative, the mayors explained in greater detail the need for and the reasons behind this initiative to the members of the Councils and the citizens of their respective municipalities. Upon the adoption of the Initiative, the mayors submitted a Draft Decision on the Establishment of Joint Administration Bodies to their Municipal Councils, which included provisions on the units and their respective competencies and the location of their seats. After adoption of the Decision, the mayors drafted three separate agreements:

  • the Agreement on the Establishment of the Joint Administration Bodies;
  • the Agreement on the Number of Staff in the Joint Administration Bodies;
  • and the Agreement on the Financing of the Joint Administration Bodies.

There are several characteristic phases of the IMC process:

  1. Formulating the idea for establishing of joint administration bodies
  2. Consulting with the Ministry of Local Self-Government and the Civil Servants Agency
  3. Preparing a Plan of Activities to inform the citizens of the idea
  4. Acquiring citizens’ support
  5. Passing the Decision on the Establishment of the Joint Administration Bodies by the Municipal Councils
  6. Signing of agreements between the mayors for establishing joint administration bodies.

It should be pointed out that political affiliation positively influenced the establishment of the IMC. Both the mayors and most of the municipal councillors belong to same political party. The assistance of external experts was necessary during the IMC establishment, which included an experienced lawyer, who is a civil servant of the Civil Servants Agency, Skopje. Assistance from the Units of Local Governments of Macedonia (ZELS) (with which municipalities made separate agreements), UNDP, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG) was also provided during the establishment of the IMC.

The technical assistance provided by the UNDP Project “Inter-Municipal Partnerships For Improved Public Service Quality” was extremely important for the success of the IMC. The following results were observed:

  • An expert mission was carried out, resulting in two reports:
  • the Report on the Assessment and Recommendations for Improving the Quality of Public Services in Urban Planning, Tax Administration
  • the Report on IT Assessment and Recommendations in Urban Planning, Tax Administration and Inspection.
  • A wireless network was established between the three municipalities (the local area network) and IT equipment was provided for the Urban Planning, Tax Administration and Inspection Units and for the Citizen Service Centres.
  • IT capacities of the employees in the three units were strengthened through targeted and specialized training.
  • Additional on-the-job training was also organized.
  • Methodology for Performance Evaluation of the civil servants and Methodology for Organizational Analysis and Training Needs Assessment were developed.
  • Vehicles for the three units were provided.
  • Technical assistance for updating the Real Estate Register was provided and the updating methodology prepared.
  • A promotional campaign for informing citizens was implemented in order to enhance support to the process.
  • Nine Municipal Commissions for determining the market price of real estate were established.
  • Training on field data collection, application of the methodology for property value assessment, administration and tax collection was provided.
  • A basic Human Resources Management Guide was prepared.
  • Thestation for geodetic measurements was purchased for the Urban Planning unit, located in the Municipality of Novo Selo.
  • Training was provided on the use of software for tax administration and for issuing construction licences.

Assistance from the Central Government was provided by a civil servant (a lawyer from the Civil Servants Agency) and legal advice by the Ministry of Local Self-Government. It should be noted that the Ministry of Local Self-Government was a partner with the three municipalities in the implementation of the UNDP Project “Inter-municipal partnerships for improved public service quality”.

There were several difficulties during the establishment of IMC, mainly related to the lack of a convenient office space. In particular, there is a need to build new offices in the administration building to meet necessary spatial conditions of the joint Tax Administration and Collection Unit in the Municipality of Vasilevo. In addition, there was a lack of a more precise normative framework, including a regulation for the systematization of the job positions in the joint administration of the municipalities. Finally, the opposition members of the Councils pleaded for separation of the joint administration.

The most important success factors in the establishment of the IMC are: Political will within the municipal bodies to establish the IMC; willingness of the municipalities to cooperate and resolve issues jointly; skilled administration as a result of expert training in the areas of the established cooperation; and continuous promotion of IMC benefits.

Benefits and shortcoming of the IMC practice

Benefits

From the municipalities’ perspective, there are several benefits of IMC:

  • Reduced expenditures/costs
  • Optimal use of employees
  • Maximum use of human resources
  • Increased level of the service delivery efficiency and effectiveness
  • Better communication with the local stakeholders and all potential partners, including the potential donors.

The citizens benefit from IMC by streamlining the administration and its concentration in three joint organizational units, significant resources saved that are reallocated for other priority needs of citizens, prompt and improved service delivery to them, as well as increased transparency of work.

The established IMC enables cost distribution for a minimum 12 employees (according to the requirements of the normative framework) between the three municipalities. The average cost is about EUR800 monthly per employee, or EUR115,200 for 12 employees for one year. If the municipalities had established separate units, the additional costs for new 24 employees would have been EUR230,400; this resulted in a savings of EUR75,000–80,000 per municipality annually, which can be used towards other priorities in the municipalities.

It should also be noted that according to the Agreements, service costs are calculated on the basis of the analysis of the daily expenses derived from the performance of the administration. In addition, the IMC was established with the assistance of a donation for spatial organization – joint offices, equipment, vehicles, software and training by several donors: UNDP (EUR400,000), USAID (US$30 000), VNG (training) and European Agency for Reconstruction (EAR) (training, urban planning software). The initial costs to establish the IMC are covered with the savings from the operation of the IMC during one year.

Shortcomings

Shortcomings of the established form of the IMC citizens have not been identified by the partner municipalities and the citizens.

Future plans for the development of the IMC practice

The three municipalities have initiated expansion of the IMC in internal audit and joint IT administration,butcurrently no considerations are given to the initiation of cooperation with other municipalities.

Main lessons learned on how to establish IMC and make it a success

Citizens should be informed of the benefits of the joint administration for establishing a successful IMC. It is also important that municipalities, particularly the rural ones, break away from the unrealistic notion of “local patriotism”, i.e. that they have the capacities to fully implement the decentralized competencies; mayors and councils should have political will to establish the IMC. In addition, the IMC should be established between municipalities that are linked geographically and economically, and that face the same problems (urban plans, road and communal infrastructure and local economic development (LED).

All the municipalities involved consider “The Establishment of Joint Administration Bodies” of the Municipalities of Bosilovo, Vasilevo, and Novo Selo to be a solid base that can be implemented both in rural municipalities and smaller urban municipalities in the Republic of Macedonia that lack the spatial conditions, financial resources, skilled personnel, and technical equipment for implementing the competencies derived from the laws and the decentralization process. The municipalities also believe that the Central Government should pass a Law on Inter-Municipal Cooperation, and the Civil Servants Agency should prepare a regulation on the basic principles (natural, geographical and economic) of internal organization for the joint administration units. If possible, relevant data from the Central Government should be available to the municipalities without reimbursement.

The municipalities consider that ZELS should assist the rural municipalities in the establishment of different IMC forms as well as initiate vis-à-vis the Central Government, preparation and adoption of the IMC Law and Regulation/By-law for the basic principles of internal organization for the joint administration units.

Readiness to support other municipalities to establish IMC

All involved municipalities are willing to communicate their experiences and share knowledge on establishing IMC, particularly on joint administration, including the preparation of all necessary documents for its establishment, the preparation and provision of training for joint administration operations, and permanent coordination and consultation for problem-solving.

Acknowledgment

The information about this practice was collected and presented by Toni Popovski.