There are 101 recommendations of the State Audit Office implemented and one million euros saved in total in one year. This is the balance of eleven local governments, which have implemented 99% of recommendations within two years after the State Audit Office audit “Is the Administrative Resource of Local Governments Used for Performing Their Functions Efficiently and Economically?” and which are still improving their internal processes, accessibility and quality of services.
The audit was carried out in Beverīna, Daugavpils, Gulbene, Jaunpiebalga, Madona, Mazsalaca, Naukšēni, Rēzekne, Rucava, Varakļāni, and Zilupe Regional Governments.
“If this audit results in more confidence of the population that they receive the best possible services for municipal funds, that they are not overpaying for them, or on the contrary, that they are not incurring additional costs for the local government by consuming funds meant for other significant targets, we can be satisfied about the achievement indeed. The top objective of the auditor’s work is to eliminate the shortcomings and imperfections discovered during an audit, which means the implementation of the recommendations in full,” emphasised Auditor General Elita Krūmiņa.
Easier access to services for population: stack of papers decreased, money and time saved
Following the audit, the local governments are implementing recommendations aimed at providing the population with complete and accurate information about municipal services by elaborating clear and understandable descriptions of services, identifying when and where services are available, what documents are required to receive the service, and what potential fee is.
Citizens no longer have to go to the authorities to get information on the range of documents they need for municipal services, as the information is available on municipal websites. This reduces manual work, which saves the time of population to receive services and reduces the probability of errors. Similarly, they do not copy bundles of documents needed for the meeting of councillors anymore, but they send them electronically.
The local governments are still in the process of elaborating descriptions of the services provided, which are published both on the municipal websites in the section ‘Services’ and on the portal www.latvija.lv. In total, the local governments have described more than 400 services. For example, enrolling a child in a waiting list for municipal pre-school educational institution, care at home, placing an advertisement, an allowance to provide a guaranteed minimum income, and awarding real estate tax relief.
During the implementation of the recommendations, the local governments have evaluated and improved their internal processes, including eliminating redundant copying and circulation of documents, staff downtime or overload.
This has led to the restructuring of the positions of labour protection specialists, land specialists, and real estate tax inspectors in Daugavpils Regional Government, which has saved more than 50,000 euros every year. By centralising accounting, Gulbene Regional Government reduced the workload of accounting staff and saved at least 131,000 euros per year, while Rēzekne Regional Government will save almost 180,000 euros per year. Madona Regional Government has also started centralising its accounting processes, and calculations show that partial centralisation of accounting will save at least 63,500 euros in 2019.
How to optimise provision of services while maintaining their availability
Following the audit, local governments have implemented the recommendations so that provision of services to the population would be as economically justified as possible by balancing their demand and their availability and maintaining the availability of services to the population at the same time.
When assessing the demand for services and the use of administrative resources, one takes into account the need of population to receive services as close to their place of residence as possible; however, the local governments have found an opportunity to improve the provision of services even in this case. In Gulbene and Madona Regions, for instance, the provision of utilities and technical maintenance of institutions have been improved by preventing their fragmentation. In total, the improvement of those services allows Gulbene and Madona Regional Governments to save at least 300,000 euros per year.
Other local governments have also evaluated opportunities for optimisation in several areas, such as education, culture, sports, orphans’ courts, youth work, where they have changed the provision of services while maintaining access to services for the population.
Cooperation among local governments in the provision of services plays an important role
After the audit, the State Audit Office recommended to assess possible areas of cooperation with other local governments, thus reducing the use of administrative resources and preserving the availability of services to the population as much as possible.
On 1 March 2019, the joint Orphans’ Court of Amata, Jaunpiebalga, Līgatne, Pārgauja, and Rauna has commenced operating in the Jaunpiebalga Regional Government, where five local governments cooperated. Thus, they plan budget savings of approximately 5,129 euros in 2019 and 6,893 euros already in 2020.
Unfortunately, there are local governments that are reluctant to introduce new areas of cooperation with other local governments for various reasons. For example, there are two Registry Offices in one city, and local governments cannot agree to establish one Registry Office, because Daugavpils and Rēzekne Regional Governments cannot agree with Daugavpils and Rēzekne City Councils to establish one Registry Office in the city respectively.
Comparison of construction supervision costs shows that cooperation between local governments in providing services can reduce their costs. Yet, the Construction Board of Rucava Region continues to operate in the Rucava Regional Government, although the cost of creating a separate institution in a small region is at least three times higher than for municipalities that have a single construction board for several regions.