The changes in LSGLAA provide the opportunity for processes optimization and their wider publicity among the citizens

from 23/02/2024

An interview with Maya Hristova, chairman of the Municipal Council of Samokov Municipality. Second term chairman of Samokov Municipal Council. Municipal councillor for the last twelve years, of which two terms as a chairman of the Permanent Commission on Law, public order and security, and deputy-chairman  for  the term 2011-2015. Mrs Hristova is a lawyer. Ten years she was part of the municipal administration as a director of Administrative-legal and Information Service Directorate.


1.   How would you comment the changes made in the Local Self-governance and Local Administration Act?


The changes in the LSGLAA are already promulgated in State Gazette, issue 8, dated 26.01.2024. Firstly, those changes are made with the purpose to ensure the transparency of all municipal councils, as well as to provide the opportunity for all citizens to actively monitor and participate in the local governance.

As of 1 July, 2024, the Municipal councils shall broadcast online their meetings, including the meetings of the commission, in real time on the web site of the Municipal Council  or the Municipality. Furthermore, as of 1 February this year, the agenda of all forthcoming meeting of the municipal council, the commissions, and the materials for these meetings, as well as the minutes of the meetings, shall be published on the website of the municipal council or the municipality in an open format, allowing the direct downloading of text information, and/ or in computer readable open format. A public electronic register shall be created and maintained in relation to the questions asked by the municipal councillors to the Mayor, and the relevant answers to those questions.

Part of these changes are already introduced by Samokov Municipal council yet in 2019.

On the first meeting of the chairman council to the municipal council, term 2019-2023, I made a proposal for the online broadcasting of the meetings of the Municipal Council on the website of Samokov Municipality, and implementation of the electronic mode of voting for better organization and efficient decisions making; this proposal was supported by the deputy-chairmen, the chairmen of the permanent commissions and the chairmen of groups.

After a research on the companies that develop modules for electronic meetings, I found out that KONTRAX have a software product that can meet the complex needs related to the digitalization of the work of the municipal council. The main criterion for the choice was the process of implementation of complete information system, including the provision of the necessary devices. Crucial was also the provision of a training for the participants – municipal councillors, secretariat, and the council chairman. Except for the planned online training for system operation, a training on site was also organized during several consecutive meetings of the municipal council, in order to ensure the trouble-free operation with the system. On a regular meeting in 2020, we tried technically the operation of the program. We started at 9 am with a test voting, in the presence of three employees of KONTRAX, who assisted when we needed help. At 10 am we continued our work as all municipal councillors who attended the meeting, voted and made statements through the system. All my concerns faded away; the work organization improved yet with the first meeting. My colleagues were able to see and experience the benefits and approved the change. During the current term of the municipal council (2023-2027) I already had no doubts whatsoever, that the colleagues will be able to work smoothly, after we ourselves showed then the process and the individual functionalities of the program.

We were clearly ahead of time. We have now the implemented system, yet before the COVID pandemic, which gave us the opportunity to work remotely if the circumstances require so.

The work process of the municipal council includes the review of huge volume of documents – part of the administrative files, which are now accessible on the devices of every municipal councillor. The software allows to visualize the discussions, decisions, and the voting of the proposals.

Extremely useful for our works is the possibility for fast update of the program in compliance with the changes in the legal regulations. Every municipal council prepares their own rules for the organization and the activity, as the program adapts according to them and updates in case of changes. For the purposes of program development and with the implementation of the paperless meeting and electronic voting system, we provided the Rules of Samokov Municipal Council. The program is like a living organism. In addition, it was necessary to amend the Rules in correspondence to the changes in our work after the implementation of the paperless meeting program. Before the program, the order for voting was according to the names in alphabetical order (for the decisions that require roll-call voting), or voting by raising a hand (for clear vote), which was a disadvantage that slowed the process of the meetings, as there were grounds for incorrectness in regard to the votes, second voting was required, and there was a risk of wrong results from the voting. Now, the system guarantees the process of making correct and legal decisions.

2.   What would you like to change in the work process and what would you like to improve?


The digitalisation process of the local government refers not only to the work of the municipal council. My opinion is that it is part of bigger process that covers the technological modernization of the municipal administration. It would be nice to think in that direction, in order to be able to extend the services provided by the municipal administrations for the citizens and legal entities. It is a matter of time to move to entire electronic local government. Now, a big part of the services asked, continue to be performed only on site; for example, the schemes of the zoning plan cannot be requested and issued electronically. Thus, we can be in better service of the citizens and save time and efforts.


3.   Which the most determining issue for you in regard to the digitalisation of the processes in the local administration?


I would like to emphasise that for us it was crucial to find a solution that automates our work and to be better prepared for the discussions during the meetings. It also optimizes the time for voting. Now, the meetings last for half a day, while before the discussions took a whole day, in particular for more important decisions related to the budget, local taxes and fees, the estimated bill of accounts for determining the wastes fee. The program is accessible during the meeting also through mobile devices, and this is a big advantage for all municipal councillors.


4.   How do you see the role of the chairman of the municipal council in regard to the digitalization of the public sector on local level?


The role of the chairman of the municipal council is related to the timely implementation of the changes in order to follow the entire procedure in regard to making correct and legal decisions. We are the biggest municipality in the Sofia District and during one term, the municipal council makes about 2200 decisions, while other municipal councils make about 400. We are proud that the number of the proposals discussed and decisions made is significant, due also to the implemented information system for the meetings of the municipal council. The work of one municipal council is assessed also in regard to its flexibility and innovation skills for meeting the changes and openness to use the technology for better efficiency and high level of transparency.