1 Lack of coordination and supervision
Weak cooperation of institutions
Policy planning documents (both in current years and ten years ago) have been developed in the area of Latvian e-governance, which point towards significance of data exchange and elimination of requesting statements since institutions themselves would access the necessary information. Regardless of reiterated research of the problem regarding data exchange and repeated request for information, clear future priority objectives, performance indicators, tasks to be achieved in the area of data exchange have not been set for MEPRD and each institution; thus it is difficult to assess the progress.
Thus, we have not obtained assurance of a determined action on the part of MEPRD in order to facilitate interoperability of institutions and finding solutions to data exchange problems. As a result, actual development and achieved results in data exchange area is fragmented, and it mostly points to achievements and success stories of individual institutions and not a considerate, comprehensive and coordinated development.
Most resources in data exchange area are given by MEPRD to development of regulatory enactments and administration of ERDF projects in ICT area, but in relation to the annual state budget MEPRD does not plan and coordinate implementation of data exchange. Even though Law on State Information Systems sets out a requirement that manager of state information systems should submit to MEPRD for validation a project for establishment, reorganisation or liquidation of state information system, in fact MEPRD does not receive this information due to lack of effective influence mechanism whereby to motivate managers of information systems to comply with requirements of the Law on State Information Systems. Therefore, MEPRD does not have sufficient information regarding events in ICT of the state administration.
2 Weak cooperation between institutions
'Don't Repeat Yourself' (DRY) principle is not fully implemented
State administration could use the accumulated information more effectively without requesting the resident to provide data already available to institutions.
The work of audit permits to draw conclusions that generally institutions have formed good cooperation in state administration in the area of data use. Yet there are several areas wherein a person still has to perform the function of a 'courier' by obtaining and submitting information requested by the institution. Approximately 18% (191 out of 1053 services) of services provided by state institutions and 51% (376 out of 732 services) of services provided by local governments as described on the portal www.latvija.lv indicates necessity to provide information which has already been submitted to public administration Work towards lessening administrative burden on the person should be continued in these areas.
Reasons for repeated request for data regardless of current capacity of information technologies are various, both organisational and human:
regulatory enactments and service descriptions have not been updated and still include requesting information from the person;
institutions still have not developed solutions for exchange of necessary data (lack of resources, outdated technologies, small volumes of services or it simply has not been considered this far);
in certain areas data transfer to another institution is not ensured free of charge;
in order to receive the service without delay and faster, persons themselves often add copies of documents not required to the documents they submit to the institutions.
If until now institutions solved their cooperation issues individually, further data exchange development requires more active and purposeful action of the supreme institution in the area of e-governance, Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development (MEPRD), which is responsible for common policies of e-governance and data exchange and may affect unified records of accumulated data, coordination and organisation of cooperation between institutions, compliance with common principles and data exchange ways. In cooperation with ministries and institutions themselves, MEPRD should pay attention to solving data exchange problems in specific sectors wherein solution has not been found for years.
3 Lack of information about state's owned data and common cooperation principles
Establishing data exchange between institutions is a lengthy and difficult process
Planning and cooperation organisation of data exchange is fundamentally impeded by a fact that state administration still has not unified information and records on data, mutual movement and access conditions of 178 state and municipal information systems. Data circulation flow is not sufficiently transparent and traceable in order for institutions to have full information for the purposes of planning development of their own information systems and improvement of interoperability. As a result, institutions have difficulty in identifying whether specific information is already accumulated by state administration. Information available in the established register of state information systems is incomplete and outdated.
Currently establishing cooperation and data exchange between institutions mostly is a lengthy and difficult process, and significant resources are directed not towards finding technical solutions to data exchange but validation of legal issues. Conclusion of one interdepartmental agreement on data exchange may take up to 6-12 months. State administration does not have a standardised and unified approach to development of these agreements, for basis, details and validation of data exchange, even though generally there is a great number of such cooperation agreements in the state administration. Eight institutions (out of 75 that maintain state information systems) included in selection by the State Audit Office had concluded 1464 agreements.
Similarly, personal data protection issues included in agreements are not consistent and lack a unified approach and methodology. Also, institutions responsible for e-governance and data protection do not become involved in solving the problem on their own initiative.
MEPRD does not become actively involved and does not coordinate cooperation of institutions, which would be very important at the moment. Such institutions of horizontal level as Information Society Council and ICT manager forum also mostly assess the project priorities supported by ERDF instead of actively promoting propagation of the good practice and cooperation.
4 Data integration on a voluntary basis
Fragmented, complicated and more expensive data exchange environment
In Latvia, already for several years has been established state information systems' integrator (SISI). Even though a total of EUR 9.7 mln have been used for development of SISI (data exchange function is only a part of the total set of functions of this tool), contrary to the experience of other countries (Estonia, Spanish) its mandatory use by institutions is not clearly provided at the level of regulatory enactments. Therefore, a number of other various integrations of information systems continues to increase in state administration, and integration of these in SISI at later point will become more complicated and more expensive. In long term, SISI may provide several advantages: single supervision environment, standardised organisational questions, changes applied in one location, data transfer to new clients all would require less resources.
Considering that the use of integrator is voluntary, only 11 out of 75 managers distribute data through the integrator, even though data of use of certain data distribution services shows that these may become a very important way of distributing data and thus decreasing administrative burden of population and aiding the work of institutions themselves.
Many channels of data exchange and distribution create a fragmented and complicated environment for maintenance of ICT. When assessing 209 data exchange agreements concluded by the managers of the largest registers, the audit showed that almost in half of cases (43 %) prevail data exchange channels with file transportation services or e-mails requiring a significant contribution of manual labour.
Such choice by institutions is influenced both by historically established and still working data exchange channels and additionally required resources in order to transition to new and more current online data exchange types. In addition, the use of SISI is partly hindered by concern expressed by institutions regarding advantages and real benefits of SISI, as well as deficiencies in disproportionately slow support of State Regional Development Agency (SRDA) to already existing users of SISI
In our audits, we have already observed for a long time that state administration institutions do not have sufficient cooperation, and we have provided recommendations to institutions that they should exchange the data electronically. However, some institutions still choose the easiest way: they request that a resident should submit to one institution statements issued by another institution. The resident becomes a "courier" and does just that instead of one information system communicating with another to obtain the information necessary for decisionmaking.
Law provides that if information necessary for administrative decisionmaking to regulate public and legal relationships with a private person is available to another institution, the first institution obtains it on its own without requesting it from the private person. Thus, institutions cooperate in fulfilment of their functions and tasks and may initiate request to another institution to provide information in its possession.
So aim of audit was to obtain assurance whether state administration sufficiently uses possibilities offered by information technologies so that the institutions would not burden the population by requesting submission of such documents that are already available to the state administration.