High Level Capacity Building Seminar on “Administrative Simplification: Overcoming Barriers to Implementation” in Cairo, Egypt on 18-19 June 2008

 

The High Level Capacity Building Seminar on “Administrative Simplification: Overcoming Barriers To Implementation” was organised jointly by WG II on E-government and Administrative Simplification and WG IV on Public Service Delivery, Public Private Partnerships and Regulatory Reform  in Cairo, Egypt on 18-19 June 2008.

 

The event was hosted by the Ministry of State for Administrative Development of Egypt, organised jointly with the OECD, in the framework of the Working Group II and Working Group IV of the Good Governance for Development (GfD) in Arab Countries Initiative.

Both Working Group II (e-government and administrative simplification) and Working Group IV (public private partnerships, public service delivery and regulatory reform) have been cooperating closely from the beginning of the GfD Initiative creating synergies and exploiting the links between administrative simplification and regulatory reform issues. Administrative simplification is often seen as a tool for regulatory reform.


Participants


H.E. Dr. Ahmed Mahmood Darwish, Minister of State for Administrative Development in Egypt, chaired the event showing great commitment to the GfD Initiative’s work, especially in the area of administrative simplification. Mr. Kheireddine Ben Soltane, Juridical Counsellor for the Prime Minister in Tunisia, represented the chair of the GfD Working Group IV, Tunisia. Mr. Giovanni Maria De Vita, Head of the Commercial Section, Embassy of Italy in Egypt, represented the co-chair of the GfD Working Groups II and IV. Dr. Ali Ahmad Thani Bin Obood, Director General of the Civil Service Bureau in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) participated as the national coordinator in UAE for the GfD Initiative.


Around 80 participants attended the seminar. In total, 10 Arab delegations were represented: Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Palestinian National Authority, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. In addition, there were also 5 OECD countries: Belgium, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands and Portugal. The Arab Administrative Development Organisation (ARADO) participated as well. A number of Egyptian ministries, agencies, sub national governments and other institutions actively took part in the seminar.


Objectives


Cutting red tape , simplification of administrative procedures, and especially overcoming barriers to effective implementation of administrative simplification strategies have been underlined by Arab participating countries to the GfD as one of the top priorities in their policy agenda. In many countries, problems such as burdensome legislation, deep-rooted inefficient administrative procedures, enormous amount of time and money spent for unnecessary administrative obligations are barriers to overcome towards promoting economic growth and bringing social development.
This seminar was articulated with four workshop sessions that offered a unique opportunity to identify and discuss the main barriers to simplification strategies and learn from each other’s experiences to develop sound strategies through concrete examples. The OECD provides a forum for policy dialogue that can be helpful to those countries that are looking for more innovative approaches for administrative simplification.
It was organised as a respond to a clear demand from MENA countries, especially Egypt, to create capacities to develop administrative simplification strategies. It aimed at expanding the network of experts on the administrative simplification in MENA and OECD countries. This seminar is a follow of the Fifth High-level Regional Seminar on Strategies, Tools and Capacities for Administrative Simplification, also held in Cairo, Egypt on 20-21 June 2007.


Policy Dialogue

Whereas the discussion during the seminar in 2007 was broad and introductory on the subject of administrative simplification, the High Level Capacity Building Seminar on “Administrative Simplification: Overcoming Barriers to Implementation” in 2008 was concretely focused on barriers commonly found when designing and implementing administrative simplification strategies. The first part of the seminar was conceived to explore Arab and OECD experiences on the topic and some of the barriers encountered. During the second part of the seminar, four workshop sessions  were conducted by experienced OECD policy makers from pioneer countries on administrative simplification such as Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium and Portugal.
Administrative simplification is not about saving money but about gaining efficiency. Most governments engage in these activities by laying down objectives accountable in monetise terms. These are returns to society as business and other activities need fewer resources to undertake administrative procedures and paperwork.

 

It was agreed that there are basically five ways to develop administrative simplification:

  1. Using better regulation. Behind administrative procedures and paperwork there are rules that determine their nature. The improvement of rules contributes to simplification.
  2. Organisational reengineering. Management and organisation settings determine levels of effectiveness and efficiency of public administration. There is a need to promote innovation and the use of operational tools. Examples of these tools are one-stop shops and systems for data sharing among public institutions.
  3. The use of information and communication technologies (ICT) tools. Generalising e-government or the digitalisation of the administration provides better access to services, information and procedures.
  4. Better information and service. Well informed citizens are better able to comply with administrative requirements. Clear communication should focus on providing consistent instructions on how public services are to be delivered.
  5. Creating synergies between public administration demands. Different administrative requirements might be colliding or overlapping. If demands are coordinated, unnecessary administrative burdens are reduced. For example, if similar fiscal procedures are requested several times a year, merging them into one time requirement will probably reduce the time devoted to comply with them.

 


Participants identified two kinds of barriers: strategic or technical barriers. Different possibilities to overcome them based on experiences of participating countries were discussed. Barriers and actions to overcome them were listed during the wrap up session .
Some of the ideas to overcome those barriers include:

  • “Numbers help to be persuasive”. An idea developed to overcome resistance consists on starting small: The strategy is to aim at short term and visible goals that can be easily sold afterwards as success stories to promote the work on administrative simplification. For example, if there are improvements in the time needed to manage a sickness leave, this can be accounted and presented as time saved for workers and businesses thanks to administrative simplification.
  • “Find ambassadors for your work”. If the right stakeholders are engaged in the simplification process, they can promote the benefits of reforms to other key stakeholders, multiplying communication capacities of the project.
  • “Staff working on administrative simplification at the public administration should be trained into change”. When building a team in the administration, a multidisciplinary approach has been taken in most countries. Civil servants implementing the administrative simplification strategies should be prone to question things, be assertive, creative, and use their analytical capacities.
  • “Diversify and consolidate data collection strategies”. Systematic data collection and analysis should be done in different an innovative ways, promoting flows of information from citizens to the public administration. Some of the mechanisms recommended are business surveys, public consultation and occasionally hired external expertise


Outcomes and future work


The main goal of this seminar was to continue the policy dialogue and learn from each other to develop stronger administrative simplification strategies. This learning experience was based on concrete examples of success, as well as of failure stories.


It was a unique opportunity to build support for and strengthen the network of experts on administrative simplification in Arab and OECD countries. In particular, participants put forward ideas to continue working in the framework of the GfD Initiative.


The three key areas highlighted of interest during the seminar are (1) the design of “whole-of-government” strategies for administrative simplification, (2) how to overcome barriers encountered and (3) mechanisms for measuring administrative burdens. In the frame of the second phase of the GfD Initiative, joint learning activities have been designed to create capacities, build links and create synergies in Arab countries. Participants have expressed their interest in actively engage in these activities to continue the policy dialogue with other countries. Some of the outcomes to follow up this event are:

  1. A short paper on “Overcoming Barriers to Administrative Simplification Strategies” that will explore some of the issues discussed during the seminar. It intents to present an overview of common barriers to administrative simplification strategies in Arab and OECD countries, and some of the efforts deployed to overcome them. This work will benefit from inputs from the network of experts participating in the GfD Initiative.
  2. Specific Joint Learning Activities (JLA) will aim at strategies and the design of tools for administrative simplification at national level, including the integration of the e-government perspective. There are mainly two kind of joint learning activities (JLA) envisaged:
    a) Joint learning study (JLS). Arab countries invite the OECD to provide support to the reforms with i) an assessment of current achievements and challenges in bridging e-government and administrative simplification policies; ii) providing peer-to-peer advice in the form of proposals for action on how to move forward.
    b) Joint learning visit (JLV). Arab and OECD delegates cooperate to build capacities focused on whole-of-government administrative simplification strategies and the components for their success.


Documentation


Agenda (EnglishArabic)
Annex to the agenda. Guidelines for the breakout workshop sessions
List of participants


Presentations


Session 1


Session 2

 

Background


OECD sources:


Other sources:


Guide to Systematic Simplification


 

For more information, please contact Mr. Pedro Andres-Amo at pedro.andresamo@oecd.org