Economic Policy Review ISSN 1313 - 0544

On State Properties and Transparency

Author: Svetla Kostadinova / 26.01.2007
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In the beginning of 2006 it appeared that some of the Bulgarian ministries and agencies did not declare their property in Sofia municipality or they misreported a lower price. This resulted in the non-payment of waste tax or payment of lower amount. The notorious problems with garbage collection in Sofia made it a sensitive issue. The new “general” mayor declared that he would do the impossible to improve the system and to remove all obstacles imposed by previous 10-years mayor who did not succeed to prevent a 1 month garbage flood on Sofia streets.

This is a clear example of non-transparency and lower accountability of state administration and we can outline the following problems.

State institutions are given and dispose of certain property to perform their functions according to Law on state property.

In 2005, the National Audit Office released a report that showed striking cases when the requisite “price” was missing in the deeds for state property. The Ministry of regional works and development, along with the district governors, who are entitled by the law, to take care of all state properties, announced in 2005 that there has been already put in place national information system “Property Register”. It is supposed to maintain and provide information on all state properties through Internet. Unfortunately, we cannot say if this system works properly since the access is restricted to government officials and the district governors. Several events from this week (January 16-22, 2006) proved that this information is not available even to all entitled parties. There were doubts if each ministry and state institution had declared their property at all, and if yes – what exactly. What does this means?

  1. Lack of available and free access information is a prerequisite for opacity before citizens in first place, and other parties on the other hand (municipalities in this particular case). No information – no accountability.
  2. Citizens are those that the state administration works for. They are those that administration should be accountable before and if state property public register is not operational, this means that the public servants do not see us as their “employer” per se. How can we expect good work from them in this case?
  3. Property registers are one of the most often used worldwide. There are a lot of potential users and interested parties that can use the information – municipalities, banks, construction entrepreneurs, insurance companies, pension finds, etc. Therefore, such register is of crucial importance and it is not acceptable that it is not in operation, nor easy to access.

What needs to be done?

•  All information about state properties (public and private state properties according to law on state property) needs to be free of charge, easily accessible and including all requisites – price, location, etc;

•  Selling of all private state properties should be done as soon as possible. The state is not a good landlord and has no stimuli, nor common sense to be such;

•  Reducing of state administration at least with 20% that will lead to the sale of part of state properties;

•  Privatization of not-typical for state administration activities and services and provision of most of public services by private sector;

•  Introducing in practice the electronic government – you can try to send documents using digital signature and will find out as many different requirements, as ministries we have. And this applies only for those that declare that they have the procedures and technologies put in place.