“The institution of utility connection is one of the biggest administrative barriers for business and ordinary people alike,” said the expert for the Analytical Center Evgeny Lokhmatov, speaking at the National Forum for Centers of State and Municipal Services that was held in Voronezh. “Apart from the exorbitant cost of utility connection and lack of the appropriate technical capability, another problem encountered in many regions is the complexity, length and low transparency of the formal procedures that need to be completed and lack of information available for the public as well as for small and medium sized businesses. Abuses of power by government officials when making decisions are also quite common.” According to the expert, information about utility connection has to be publicly available in order to facilitate business planning, because without such information it is impossible to estimate key parameters and risks of projects that would take into account the capabilities and constraints associated with utility connection.
During his presentation Mr. Lokhmatov suggested using and scaling the positive experience of Astrakhan, Leningrad and Rostov Oblasts as well as that of the Republic of Bashkortostan and other regions where provision of utility connection services was organized at multifunctional centers. In his opinion, ICT should be used, primarily in the form of internet portals, as a new universal interface and communication channel between consumers and providers of such services.
The expert noted that the main steps to ensure the optimization of utility connection services include expert assessment of the existing processes, setting of specific standardized timeframes for each procedure, setting standardized fees and determining what utility connection procedures must consist of, standardization of terminology and development of standard contracts for the cooperation between multifunctional centers and public utility companies. Mr. Lokhmatov made special mention of the importance of ensuring transparency and access to information about all customer applications and their current status as well as information about the possibility of connecting specific properties and the current status of work on specific properties.
Measures need to be taken to optimize services as well as curtail and prevent any abuses of their position by public utilities, the expert believes. The Analytical Center and the Ministry of Economic Development are willing to work on such measures.