Mobile app will help to improve the quality of public services and prevent corruption

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Corruption is an overwhelming problem in Ukraine. The country was ranked 144 among 177 countries covered by the survey on Corruption Perceptions Index 2013 (CPI) by Transparency International. Ukraine belonged to the “high risk” group together with Cameroon, Iran, Nigeria, Central African Republic and Papua New Guinea, and it risked slipping even lower in 2014. The basic reasons were corrupt protectionism and fusion of political and business interests. The Transparency International concluded that the procedures of receiving permits to conduct business became more corrupt, the corruption was flourishing in cooperation with the state authorities and the decision-making officials who control the financial flows.

The bribery, extortion and use of personal connections are a mundane reality for 60.1% of adult Ukrainians, according to the survey conducted by Kyiv International Institute for Sociology (2011). Analyzing the level of corruption in area of public services provision, on average:

 47.1% of citizens reported having been extorted bribes for receiving different permissions and licenses from state service providing agencies,

32.2% respondents reported having been extorted bribes for registration or privatization of real estate,

8.9 % have been extorted bribes for processing the documents or payment of social payments.

Unfortunately, only 4.1% of citizens who faced corruption, made efforts to report or appeal the illegal actions of the officials. While one third of the citizens who dealt with corruption are not ready to take any actions (32.9 %), 22.9% of the respondents are ready to complain to the supervisor of the corrupted official, 17.6% are ready to apply to court and law enforcing authorities. Therefore, strengthening corruption prevention and emerging oversight mechanisms by the civil society as watchdogs is one of the top priorities for Ukraine.

However, in general there is low awareness of the citizens on actions of the government agencies, organisations and business for preventing corruprion. Also, there are few mechanisms of corruption prevention and tools for reporting about the corrupt actions of officials and responsible agencies. 

Activity in Ivano-Frankivsk

 Ivano-Frankivsk municiaplity became the first in Ukraine to pilot citizens’ involvment into corruption prevention and reporting through the mobile app. The mobile app “Mobile Ivano-Frankivsk” was created by the municipality under UNDP support to raise accessibility and transparency of the administrative service provision by the city authorities to the citizens and to combat corruption.

 Ivano-Frankivsk is the municipality in Western Ukraine which has always been at the forefront of raising the standarts of administrative services provision and establishing feedback loops between the local authorities and citizens. In 2013, the city council initiated a project on creation of the mobile app to make the public servcies provided in the municiaplity more convenient and accessible to its citizens, and to widen the opportunities of collecting people’s feedback on their quality for further improvement, including corrptuion reports. The project was supported by UNDP Regional Anti Corruption Project.

 The electronic application for the smart phones and tablets was launched in January 2014. It is based on the operational systems IOS and Android and contains the information about the city, its executive authorities, communal, educational, sports, heath care, culture and leisure institutions; city bus routes; hotels, restaurants, tourism, weather etc. With this app, people get a useful telephone directory of 500 contacts for all cases, when public authorities can provide support and services to the citizens.

In the section “Connect with the city authorities” there is an option to send citizens’ petitions or requests for public information. These notifications about new requests will be automatically integrated to the system of the electronic document flow of the executive committee of the city council and will be sent to the focal points in different units.

The app also enables users to inform different authorities authorities on illegal actions through 14 anti-corruption telephone hot lines, e-mails, addresses listed in a separate section of the app for quick access. Depending on the nature of the issue, citizens may choose to call the anticorruption line of the municipality, regional state administration, Taxation Ministry, Prosecutor’s Office, Security Service of Ukraine and others. Anti-corruption section of the app can be reached in seconds after the citizen has faced corruptive action of the officials.

 People can either submit the electronic petition to the city council or inform responsible authorities or communal enterprises managers directly via phone numbers provided in the telephone directory of the app. The claims and petitions submitted via the phone will be addressed according to the current legislation – with provision of the consultative support on reported corruption cases or advisory support on preparation of official written reports and petitions. The reports submitted by e-mail, if they are properly formulated, will be considered within the legally established period of time – 30 days, and not more than 45 days for complicated cases.

First results

 In Ivano-Frankivsk, there are 243 thousand citizens and approximately 80 thousand devices where the app can be used. The app “Mobile Ivano-Frankivsk” became available for free download through Google Play on January 18, 2014. During the first month, with no promotion campaign over 50 people downloaded the app and many of them left their positive feedback. The awareness campaign was initiated by the city council in March to popularize the app among local residents. By June 2014, it is planned to produce the social ad on at least 10 billboards and citylights, publish up to 10 articles on the new app in the local mass media, official web-site of the city council and its pages in thesocial networks. Also, an announcement on the app will be placed in the premises of the Center for Administrative Services Provision, City Council and other service providing institutions. By end of 2014, the municipality plans to engage 10% of the potential users (8 thousand citizens) to use the app.