What information is lacking for consumers about the work of housing and communal services? How much information providers of housing and communal services provide about their work?
This was discussed at the seminar "Social accountability as a tool for improving the quality of housing and communal services", which was held in Minsk on July 20. The event was attended by representatives of district executive committees, housing and public utilities sector, public organizations and other interested groups.
At the event the results of a study of the degree of customer satisfaction with the quality of housing and communal services conducted in the Viliejka and Iūje districts were presented.
- 20-25% of citizens in the analysis in Viliejka and Iūje districts the main problem called the low quality of drinking water and its weak pressure, and 80-85% agreed to pay an additional fee for solving this problem, - said the head of the laboratory of economic problems in the construction of JSC "Research Institute Stroyeconomy" Andrei Bakhmat. - However, 14-17% of all respondents expressed indifference on housing and communal services, which signals the undermining of citizens' trust in this industry. More details of the research results can be found at ecopartnerstvo.by.
One of the reasons for this attitude was the expert's lack of information about how tariffs for housing and communal services are formed. The expert recommended that information on the formation of tariffs, utility expenses, plans for the development of the sector be widely available, for example, on Internet resources and local media, printed in veins, and not limited to advertisements on information boards.
Andrei Bakhmat cited the example of Holland, where local media publish water quality indicators every week, they are necessarily discussing tariff increases for services, explaining where the money will go from the increased tariffs, for example, to the reconstruction of engineering networks.
At the event, Belarusian examples of successful practices of interaction between housing and utilities and consumers were presented. For example, the portal of the Minsk City Executive Committee "My City - 115.bel" serves as an effective tool for informing citizens about the work of housing and communal services. The Internet resource allows consumers to inform utility services about problematic issues and see a solution to their treatment.
Only few know that the Ministry of Housing and Communal Services issues a number of information resources that give its readers broad information about the work of housing and communal services and may be of interest to both specialists and ordinary consumers. The audience of the Portal for public literacy is growing most dynamically, said Irina Fomina, the editor-in-chief of the "Zhilkomizdat" state enterprise.
Alina Bushmovich, Executive Director of IPO "Ecopartnership", spoke about interaction with consumers through social networks. Within the framework of the European Union project "Demand for Good Governance in Housing and Utility Sector" two information centers were created on the housing and communal services in the Vkontakte social network, where local residents can ask questions and get competent answers, as well as find useful information about waste management, sanitation and other topics. Thanks to the project in Iūje and Viliejka districts, public reception offices on housing and communal services have been held.
The international experience of public participation in decision-making in the sphere of housing and communal services was presented by the expert in the field of electronic management of the UN Department for Social and Economic Affairs (UNDESA), Yury Misnikov. In his opinion, in order to achieve effective interaction between the housing and communal services and local communities in Belarus, it is necessary to fulfill three points: the development of the legislative framework, the creation of public coordination councils, and the openness and transparency of the work of state bodies.
The seminar was held within the framework of the project "Requirement for Efficient Management of the Utility Sector", which is being implemented by IPO "Ecopartnership" in conjunction with the Viliejka and Iūje District Executive Committees and the Belarusian Society for Consumer Protection.
The activities of the EU project contribute to the development of social accountability in the area of housing and communal services, where consumers have an opportunity to assess the quality of housing and communal services, make suggestions for their improvement and participate in the management of the sector.