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October 2, 2017
Azaliya Dayirbekova: Public organizations must prove their competence in terms of provision of state services
Аlmaty. September 29. KazTAG - Transfer of state services provision to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is one of the trends of state policy of Kazakhstan. While this principle has not been realized, there is misunderstanding from the side of state bodies and NGOs what to transfer and under which terms. But before it happens, NGOs must demonstrate their competence to work in this field. Azaliya Dayirbekova, head of USAID project "Initiative in support of effective governance", president of "Eurasia Fund in Central Asia" shared with us her ideas about maturity of NGOs and what functions the Government can share with them.
- Azaliya, how would you assess the potentials of Kazakhstan’s NGOs in terms of public services provision by them?
- For a long period of time, state bodies perceived civil society and NGOs, as enthusiastic groups that bustle and scream, which can lead crowds into the streets, as "grantees" that work for foreign donors. In general, there were reasons for this. Indeed, a lot of NGOs worked like this- from grant to grant, if there was no funding, they ceased their activity. Today, a sort of creative initiative develops in the civil society, when people are ready not only to shout, resent and criticize the Government, but to offer ideas, solutions, in fact, constructive ones .I can say that today in civil society there are professional organizations that are ready to cooperate speaking one language with the Government, not only to offer projects, but also to implement them at a high professional level. And as a result - to assume performance of some state functions. They even have some experience.
- Could you tell us about them?
- For example, one of our grantees is implementing a project to identify hidden public services. What do hidden public services mean? These are those that are not prescribed in the regulations, they are not fixed by procedures, that is, as an official thought, so he did: not within three days, but within three months, or within one day - but for money. As a result, it gives ground for corrupt activities. There are NGOs that professionally track where such services exist. The "Women's Leadership Fund" is working to prevent suicides among teenagers within the framework of the project entitled "TEENS - Affordable and Qualified Aid". It's not a secret that Kazakhstan has a high position on this indicator. A lot of researches have been conducted to identify the causes, and today the main question is - what to do? The fund jointly with the Ministry of Education, is working on introduction of psychological support in schools.
Formally, school psychologists are available at schools. But they are not professionals, it's usually a teacher who took a couple of extra hours and does not do any serious work, does not know the method of preventive work. For example, when a child commits a suicide attempt, he is taken to the class: "Look, yesterday Vasya attempted to cut his veins. So that no one else would do this." There is no doubt tomorrow this Vasya will jump out of the window, because in addition he was disgraced.
Today using the international experience, the "Women's Leadership Fund" is trying to reassure our officials that our schools need specially trained psychologists. Here is an example of improving the quality of public services, because these specialists will conduct preventive work, but not post-factum. And there are lots of such projects.
- Which functions is the Government ready to transfer, and which functions are the NGOs ready to take over?
-It is a big question. Even the officials do not know this. A task was set before them: to transfer. But which functions? How to transfer them? Are the NGOs ready to accept them? Discussion is on. In addition, to be honest, today there are not so many NGOs in
Kazakhstan which can take over these functions. If to talk about my personal feelings, the transfer can begin with some professional certifications, accreditations by expert communities.
Or let's take a look at such direction as work with the disabled. The fact that people with disabilities are now a part of public councils and are the akims' advisers is an advantage - it is easier for them to understand the needs of the same people. Imagine, a person with a disability comes to the center of population's services - he cannot be served. Why not to delegate some of the functions to organizations that work specifically with this category of customers so that they can organize work in this field in compliance with their needs? It is difficult for a healthy official to understand the difficulties that disabled people experience. As an example, organizations of people with disabilities send their employees in the centers of population services, and they provide services without any red-tape.
The second direction is to determine the status of HIV / AIDS, testing for this disease. Who can do this better? After all, most of the people who need these tests are drug addicts. The NGOs that focus on this work have employees who went through this. People with assumption of HIV do not go to the AIDS center for the tests. But they tend to trust their peers- work is going in a different pace there.
- And what is the best way to transfer these functions?
- In the course of this transfer, the quality of services must not suffer, therefore, in our opinion, it would be correct to transfer gradually. In fact, this issue is complicated, we have no experience. Therefore, Svetlana Makovetskaya, director of the Center for Civil Analysis and Independent Studies from Russia, took part in one of our recent trainings on this issue. The neighbors have certain experience - both positive and negative, which she shared not only with our activists, but also with civil servants. After all, all the trainings are attended not only by public figures, but also by officials from various departments so that they could understand how to organize this work.
- Should financing of NGOs work be covered by the budget? Don't you afraid that NGOs will be called "pocketable" after that?
- I suppose, since these are state services - they should be paid by the state. This is a long-standing dispute: the music is ordered by the one who pays for it. One may say, we are independent, because we do not take money from the Government. While the one who takes is the pocketable one. In fact, if you do not take money from your state, then you take from another state and become dependent on the Americans, Englishmen, Turks, etc. We are calling the NGOs to take money from donors, to diversify their portfolio, in this case the organization can balance, show its financial stability and talk about independence, about mission and purpose - and it does not matter whose money it will use to achieve it. In this case, the NGO will depend on its beneficiaries, on those whose problems it solves - whether they are women, orphans or disabled.
- At the beginning of our conversation you mentioned the presence of a corruption component in the state services. How is this issue going to be solved by NGOs? I do not mean to offend anyone, but people are people ...
- Here it is necessary to talk about the conditions under which these or other functions will be transferred. If they are not clearly regulated, spelt out step-by-step in the state, if there were loopholes for corruption, then all these drawbacks will remain unchanged or multiplied, because there will be less control. And if the control is still tough - the burden on the state bodies despite the transfer of some functions will not decrease, but will increase.
If the procedures are conducted correctly, there will be enough of public control.
- Should NGOs participate in the development of regulations of the transferred services in order to lower their potential corruption-relatedness? Or it is worth waiting for the Government to write the rules of the game?
- In fact, today the ideas on this issue mostly come from NGOs. The only problem is how much the Government can trust the NGO. Today, the trust level is very low - not only from the side of the Government, but also among the population: we are still called "spies", "foreign agents", etc. But without real work, we will not raise this confidence.
- Thanks for the interview!