Support to Local Governments
USAID stimulates the development of innovative municipal practices
Expeditious and friendly service has become the practice in many municipal one-stop-shops, established with USAID support. (Photo:USAID)DEVELOPMENT CHALLENGES As the welcomed trend in Bulgaria of decentralization from the national level to the local level of economic and social responsibility for the citizenry continues, it is imperative that local governments have adequate capacity to discharge their responsibilities and that indigenous local government support organizations develop the capacity to provide community leaders with the skill sets needed to manage this increased responsibility.
USAID INVOLVEMENT USAID continues its relationship with the Bulgarian Foundation for Local Government Reform (FLGR). The focus of the USAID program is to further improve local government capacity through the provision of technical and financial assistance to indigenous local government support organizations and the continued implementation of the most established and demand-driven FLGR activities in several program areas. FLGR is a key strategic USAID partner in the area of local government strengthening and its sustainability as leader in promotion and implementation of local government reform is a major USAID legacy.
GOAL The program aims to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of local government through the provision of technical and financial assistance to local governments and to indigenous local government support organizations and the implementation of innovative municipal practices.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION The target group under this program includes a broad range of beneficiaries: municipal experts and practitioners; regional associations of municipalities; non-governmental organizations; individual municipalities; central government institutions; citizens groups. This effort will improve the accountability, transparency and effectiveness of local self-government, stimulate active and considered citizen participation, promote inclusion of gender and ethnic issues into the local government agenda, and enrich public awareness about the role and importance of local self-government. The program focuses its activities on several tasks:
Support the implementation of competitive projects of Regional Associations of Municipalities (RAMs), municipalities and NGOs:
• Assist RAMs with organizational strengthening and projects targeted at local government capacity building.
• Assist municipalities in developing effective customer service programs with a focus on streamlining permitting procedures as well as the reduction of the number of required permits.
• Support NGOs to create innovative partnerships involving local governments and their civic partners particularly in the areas of citizen participation and placing women and ethnic groups on the local agenda
Build public consensus for policy change and joint initiatives between all levels of government entities and their civic partners (NGOs and businesses):
• Organize forums for dissemination of local government innovative practices.
• Organize discussions on areas affecting local government, such as: property management and public private partnerships; partnership between local authorities and their civic partners in the law-making process; regional development and decentralization; role of municipalities and regions in the process of EU accession.
• Work with municipal administrations and citizen groups to ensure active and considered citizen participation in local government decision-making.
Provide professional development and consulting services to local authorities and their civic partners:
• Provide training on local government issues, such as: technical and management skills, local economic development, transparency and accountability, organizational development, team building, municipal property management and public private partnerships, urban planning, citizen participation in local government, municipal public relations.
• Support the activities of the Municipal Innovative Practices Team, such as: workshops, team retreats, and dissemination of results.
SUCCESS STORY Integrated Service Delivery. In 2005, the Foundation continued to provide technical and expert support to municipalities determined to improve their service to community using own resources. FLGR with the financial support of the USAID initiated the Integrated Administrative Services at Regional Level Project. Gabrovo and Teteven were selected as pilot municipalities that have established and well functioning Customer Service Centers. The project created organizational and technological opportunities for providing integrated administrative services by municipal administrations together with territorial institutions in accordance with high quality standards. A mechanism for online and official communication between administrative institutions was established. The District Court, Social Service Regional Department, Territorial Tax Administration, Regional Administration, the Regional Environmental Inspectorate and Regional Inspectorate for Control and Prevention of Public Health agreed to provide and exchange information and documents. By the end of 2005 the citizens in Teteven applied for more than 800 integrated services.