|Georgia to launch innovative "drive-thru" services|
|April 18, 2012|
By Jane Dudman
The government of Georgia is to launch the world's first drive-thru public services, enabling citizens to pick up new passports as easily as buying a burger.
This unusual idea, which will go live in the country's capital, Tbilisi, in September, is part of an innovative approach to public services that has seen the number of public servants slashed by a third – from 300,000 staff to 100,000 – since the country's Rose Revolution in 2003. As part of a sweeping approach to public reform, Georgia is setting up centralised locations, or public service halls, to deliver public services in its major cities as well as online.
"Citizens want service," said Nika Gilauri, the prime minister of Georgia. "They don't care whether it comes from the federal or the municipal government. Going from one to the other is tiring and confusing."
Gilauri said the idea of the "one-stop shop" for public services had been tried, but "belongs to the past", mainly because it had resulted in individual departments and organisations setting up their own one-stop shops, rather than providing central access to all services. "We will now have a completely difference service, where every single service can be acquired in our public service halls," he said. This has been possible through the use of technology to simplify processes.
Getting a passport will be one of the services that will be available at the proposed new drive-thru station, which is set to open in Tbilisi in September.
The idea for drive-thru public services is part of Georgia's bid to rebuild its public services. "We have a lot of young staff who are there to think of new services," said Gilauri, who was speaking at the Open Government Partnership conference in Brazil. "We are building the country from scratch. Up to now we have copied other people's reforms but now we are thinking of different angles."
Gilauri said reform had also reduced corruption. He said Georgia had had one of the most corrupt public sectors in the world. In 2003, the country was ranked 137th out of 153 countries as a place for doing business, because of red tape and corruption.
Georgia is now rated one of the least corrupt countries in the world, partly due to having increased public sector wages. Previously, he said, public sector salaries had been so low and that had resulted in widescale bribery. But now public servants and politicians receive higher salaries and bonuses, as is the case in the private sector.
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