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Credit where credit’s due

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It is rarely that my articles praise civil servants in Cyprus.  The failings of the public services are well known and reported regularly in the media, but there are some noticeable exceptions.

So far I have had kind words for the Forestry Department and the dedication of its staff who are there to help any member of the public to plant and maintain trees. I recently described our experience of a team of Forestry Dept. officers visiting one of our projects in order to save a pine tree that was approximately 20 years old.

Moving on, I would like to report about a new experience regarding the services provided by the Citizen’s Bureau and in particular a branch that I visited last week.

The Citizen’s Information Service was established in April 2000, with the view of providing every Cypriot citizen access to an efficient public service, and to deal with the sensitivity required for each individual case.

Through this service, citizens have direct access to the Ministry of Communications and Works for any problems, complaints and/or suggestions that are related to all the Departments and Directorates of the Ministry. The overall aim of the Ministry of Communications and Works is to alter an impersonal organization to a more personal and flexible one, which can meet directly the needs of the public.

Where government services have been digitalised, the Bureau also has access to other platforms as well, assisting ordinary folk with title deeds, medical documents, benefits and allowances, unemployment and other social funds.

The objectives of the service are:

To provide the public with direct information, and relevant assistance, through the administrative channels within the Departments and Directorates of as many ministries as possible. Thus, any inconvenience that might be caused by existing bureaucratic procedures is avoided. And they work till late, around 5pm on weekdays.

Citizens now have an immediate response if the answer to n information request or a complaint is not a complicated one.

In parallel, the public has information about the services offered by the various government departments.

24 hour service

Unlike traditional government offices, the Bureau operates on a 24-hour basis with the use of an automatic answering service, which is in use when the office is closed or there is no officer available at the time of a call. In this case the messages are recorded, and immediate action is taken as soon as the office opens or an officer is available.

The toll-free number for the Citizens’ Bureau is 8000 2288. When calling from abroad, the number is 00357 22 800 100, or e-mail address: [email protected] .

The service includes the renewal of the driver’s licences, issuing identity cards and passports, other matters regarding health records, etc., all of which are particularly useful to elderly people with no online access.

And if a special service is not available, they will put you in touch with the right person in other government departments.

I went the Makarios Avenue branch in Nicosia, having secured an appointment for 11.30 am.  I confirmed the appointment on entering the office and was given a number.

Comfy chairs in the waiting area, a TV projector calls up your number turn and after waiting for 10-15 minutes, my number came up.

I was directed to an office where we were met by a most polite young woman, who helped with the completion of a specific application, took a photograph and the job was completed from entering the Bureau to exiting within approximately 20 minutes.

The whole experience gave me the impression that we were in another country, not only due to the efficiency, but also to the politeness of the staff.

I believe that my experience at this branch also extends to all other branches, including the ones located within District Post Offices.

I saw numerous foreign people visiting the office and the staff not only spoke English, but also offered us water, etc, in order to make our wait most comfortable.

Being a local and receiving a pleasant surprise, I asked around if this experience was a one-off situation, which it clearly is not.

This bureau is an example for others to follow and make living in Cyprus much more bearable when dealing with the endless bureaucracy which one faces in any other government department.

A similar project has been recently introduced regarding matters of town planning and permits, the Lands Office, title deeds, etc. known as Ariadni (website www.gov.cy ). Definitely this is the way forward for the government and I hope that this direction will be followed by many other services as well.

 

By Antonis Loizou F.R.I.C.S. – Antonis Loizou & Associates EPE – Real Estate Valuers, Property Consultants & Estate Agents.

www.aloizou.com.cy

[email protected]