By Arslan Abbasov
AzerNews has interviewed Director of the international and public relations department of the ASAN Service, Azad Jafarli, over the current activity and future plans of the organization.
Q. Could ASAN Service gain popularity since its launching in the capital Baku on January 15? How many people have applied to the ASAN Service center and how many have benefitted from the services so far? What types of services were mainly requested?
A. Well, the direct addressee of this question is the public - our citizens, particularly those that have applied for a service within the ASAN service center. Nevertheless, I wish to bring some figures to your attention to illustrate the current picture of popularity or rather the effectiveness of the ASAN Service: since January 15 more than 35,000 people have applied for these services. Furthermore, more than 17,000 citizens have prioritized our Facebook page by means of sending the "like" signs. It is an indicator of interest as well as the needs on the part of citizens towards our center. Issuance and renewal of identity cards and passports, renewal of driving licenses, notary services, migration services, etc. are more frequently applied for. Against this background, it is worthy of note that the types of services that are requested more than others vary and replace each other frequently.
In addition, ASAN recently launched 22 auxiliary services, mainly including opening bank accounts, currency exchange, banking services for payments of state fees and penalties, real estate and car insurance, legal consultation, medical services, translation services, etc.
Q. Does the statistics allow to conclude that ASAN has accomplished its goals?
A. The goals of ASAN are not linked only to the achievements of the present day. The satisfaction of citizens is the ultimate goal, amongst others, and to achieve it continuous efforts are a must. We will need to achieve the quality, and then to maintain and increase it. The satisfaction of citizens is a phenomenon that will require that we not only reach new points of success in an abstract sense, but also enrich our working methods, methodologies and style of treatment, etc., to meet the expectations of citizens throughout our existence.
To this end, you can easily notice how difficult it is for us to speak about the accomplishment of goals even though there has been a very good track record so far. In short, the achievement of goals is the evolving and ongoing process and we are ready to tackle all of its challenges.
Q. Could ASAN Service be considered a way to fight bureaucracy? What are the advantages of ASAN Service?
A. In fact, ASAN is a place free of bureaucracy and negative formal stereotypes. One of the aims of the ASAN service center's activities is to increase transparency and step up the fight against corruption. To this end, there is no hand-in-hand payment and the only way to pay for a service is via bank departments, payment points or the internet. Moreover, to uphold the transparency principle all communications between citizens and serving state officers are recorded, and the walls of the rooms where the services are rendered are made of transparent glass that is very easy for observation.
Through the ASAN service center citizens can benefit from 23 services that are provided by nine state entities without extra expenses and loss of time. In other words, the ASAN service center is based on the principle of one-stop-shop whereby all state entities are gathered in one administrative building to receive applications from people. This is, in our view, the main advantage of ASAN! Thus, a citizen would not have to run around the growing and much promising capital city of Baku, but instead find everything necessary at the same place. In addition, there is no need to look for a photo salon, a medical section, an internet cafe, a post office or bank, and even the kids' lounge -- all of these are in the same place located next to each other.
Q. Does ASAN Service serve as an alternative or assist government agencies? What will ensure the success of this service in the future?
A. As you rightly mentioned ASAN is an alternative service. Citizens have a right to choose the ASAN service center or those of conventional service points.
We firmly believe that the operativeness, ethical behavior, convenience and transparency are the pillars to make the ASAN service center special. The adherence to these principles will, to our best conviction, ensure great success of this service in the near and distant future.
Q. Are such service centers available in other countries? Was the experience of any country used in establishing ASAN Service?
A. There are service centers similar to ASAN in some foreign countries such as Brazil, Russia, Canada, the UK, etc. ASAN service is an Azerbaijani model of a mechanism for rendering public services from a single administrative building.
ASAN service is designed to formulate a new approach toward ensuring citizens' satisfaction in the functioning of state servants and to enrich the quality of relations between state servants and citizens. The state entities that are represented at the ASAN service center are operating independently and rendering services via their own staff. The State Agency for Public Service and Social Innovations is only organizing and coordinating the work of those state entities and therefore there is no divergence between the Agency and the state entities represented.
In fact, this is the most distinctive feature of the Azerbaijani model that makes it completely unique among similar structures worldwide.
Q. What are the plans on expansion of the ASAN Service network in Baku? When is ASAN Service expected to be provided in Azerbaijani districts and remote regions?
A. By the end of 2013 there will be important innovations in expanding the ASAN service. We are planning to open two or three new ASAN service centers in the coming months. In addition, new centers will be established in Sumgayit and Ganja regional cities within this year. I also would like to mention that all citizens of the Republic of Azerbaijan regardless of their place of registration will soon be able to benefit from any ASAN service center they choose to apply for.
Q. How is staff selected for ASAN Service centers? How many citizens will be working in ASAN Service centers?
A. The hiring to State Agency and its subordinated body ASAN service center is carried out by the Commission on State Service Affairs. The Commission announces the available vacancies on its Web page and collects applications. Thereafter an exam is arranged by the Commission. Only those who have successfully passed the exam are entitled to take part in the last stage [of the selection process], e.g. interviews.
According to the Decree No. 706 of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan dated September 5, 2012, the number of employees of the State Agency for Public Service and Social Innovations was set at 120.
12 civil servants, 8 information desk operators and 95 employees of nine state entities that are carrying out 23 services currently work at the ASAN service center.
Q. Can foreign citizens living in Azerbaijan apply to ASAN to obtain a migration card and how would this procedure be carried out there?
A. One of the services rendered at the ASAN Service center is the issuance of documents for temporary residence permits and for obtaining immigrant status for permanent residence in the Republic of Azerbaijan. Foreign citizens can benefit from this service by submitting the required documents.
They will need to pass at the equal footing with the citizens the same technical procedures to benefit from the services. This will imply the queue system, payment of the fee for a particular service, and benefitting from the conveniences such as a kids' area, an internet cafe, a photo salon, a self-service area, medical services, etc.
Here I have to add that obtaining a migration card is not the only service that foreign citizens may apply for in the ASAN service center, and you can see foreign nationals coming to the ASAN service center almost every day.
Moreover, granting work permits to foreigners for paid employment in the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan has been added to the range of our services.