Chapter 4. Administrative simplification policies and the management of the stock of regulation in Argentina

In this chapter, recent and current initiatives and practices implemented by the Government of Argentina on administrative simplification and ex post analysis of regulation are described and discussed.

    

Administrative simplification policies and practices

The Argentinian government has adopted the highest political commitment to the modernisation of the National Public Administration. By promoting an ambitious agenda, the national authorities recognised the importance of increasing the quality of public services by embracing the use of information and communication technology (ICT) and in this way reduce administrative burdens for citizens and businesses. In Argentina, the administrative simplification actions depend on four main actors; the Government Secretariat of Modernisation, the Legal and Technical Secretariat, and more recently, the Ministry of Production and Labour who has taken a more relevant role, especially after the introduction of Decree 62/2018, which creates the Administrative Simplification Secretariat.

The Administrative Modernisation Secretariat and the Modernisation of the State Plan

The Administrative Modernisation Secretariat is responsible for the design, proposal and co-ordination of the transformation and modernisation policies in the National Administration (Decree 13/2015). It is in charge of the implementation of ICT tools and solutions that allow the digitisation of procedures inside the administration and towards businesses and citizens. The Administrative Modernisation Secretariat ultimate goal is the complete establishment of paperless government procedures. To date, the Secretariat of Administrative Modernisation reports that virtually all internal government processes are digitised and that 1 325 formalities for businesses and citizens can be managed to a varying degree on line through the portal tramitesadistancia.gob.ar. While the benefits for citizens and businesses of the use of digitised government formalities as opposed to traditional paper and face-to-face procedures are evident, the evidence collected by the OECD is that there were no explicit administrative simplification strategies during this process.

The e-government policy that embraces and provides support to the digitisation actions of government processes of Argentina is included in the Modernisation of the State Plan, which was implemented through Decree 434/2016 on March 2016. The plan follows a similar strategy implemented a few years back in the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires. The provisions set in the decree apply to all the institutions of the central public administration, the decentralised and deconcentrated bodies and the state-owned enterprises of the Government of Argentina. The plan revolves around five key elements:

  • Technology and digital government.

  • Human resources.

  • Management based on results and public commitment.

  • Open government and public innovation.

  • Digital-country strategy.

Notably, the technology and digital government component of the modernisation plan implies the development of better management of the processes inside the administration, on top of the implementation of remote formalities and digital services for the citizens and businesses.

The modernisation plan gave the National Government the overarching policy framework, from which the required legal instruments for the development and implementation the e-government policy was issued. The objective of this set of legal instruments was to revamp the public administration, mainly through the use of ICT tools. Table 4.1 includes the relevant legal framework that supports the e-government efforts in Argentina.

Table ‎4.1. Legal instruments that allow an e-government policy to be in implemented in Argentina

Date of emission

Decree 434/2016

Modernisation of the State Plan

1 March 2016

Decree 561/2016

System of Electronic Management of Files

6 April 2016

Decree 1.063/2016

Implementation of Remotely Conducted Administrative Procedures

4 October 2016

Decree 1.079/2016

One-stop-shop for Foreign Trade

7 October 2016

Decree 1.265/2016

Creation of the Electronic Authentication Platform

15 December 2016

Decree 1.273/2016

Registry Simplification

19 December 2016

Decree 87/2017

Creation of the Digital Platform of the National Public Sector

2 February 2017

Decree 892/2017

Platform for the Remote use of Digital Signature

2 November 2017

Resolution 19/2018

Technical Guidelines for System Interoperability

2 March 2018

Decree 733/2018

Complete, Remote, Simple, Automatic and Instant Digital Processing of Administrative Procedures

9 August 2018

The Administrative Modernisation Secretariat has benefited from the support of the Legal and Technical Secretariat (SLyT) to draft, issue and enforce the necessary legal framework for the e-government policy. Currently, the SLyT is aware of the relevance of a sound administrative simplification policy and has shown a strong commitment towards the modernisation of the public administration. Since the start of the current administration, the SLyT has been a key player to issue the legal instruments that are necessary for the use of ICT tools in government processes.

The implementation of a paperless government

In terms of the strategy to improve government processes, the country’s strategy focuses on the extensive digitisation of government processes and procedures. The idea is to create a paperless government, in which all the procedures are made digitally. The evidence collected by the OECD was that while there were a clear improvement and simplification of processes in the conversion from physical procedures to paperless systems, Argentina did not actively seek the reengineering of processes.

The first step towards the digitisation of procedures was the creation of the System of Electronic Management of Files (GDE). This platform made the use of digital files mandatory for the public administration. Procedures such as human resources formalities and budget-related issues were incorporated first to the system, as they are common to all ministries and entities. Although the platform replicates the physical formats, important gains have arisen from the reduction in the time it takes to process a request.

Currently, the GDE platform is fully operational and has made completely digital the communication between entities and public officials at the federal level. This system allows several administrative areas to work simultaneously on a file, increases traceability and allows for information to be attached. Furthermore, officials are able to sign the documents and resolutions using their digital signature, which reduces the bureaucracy inside the administration.

The second stage on the digitisation strategy involved the interaction of citizens and businesses with the public administration through a digital platform. The Remotely Conducted Administrative Procedures system allows citizens and businesses to send and receive information required for a formality (Decree 1063/2016). The website tramitesadistancia.gob.ar gathers all the formalities that can be managed by the citizens and businesses remotely to varying degrees, that is, to send information to the government, receive information from them, obtain the official response or all of them together. The site is organised by institution, subject or category. Currently, the Argentinian government has 1 244 formalities available remotely and this number is likely to increase rapidly.

As a complement to the to the Remote Formalities System, the Administrative Modernisation Secretariat issued the provisions for the creation of the Electronic Authentication Platform. It verifies the credentials of the system users and provides certainty to the authorities about the person who is accessing the platform. This instrument increases the trust of the citizens and businesses on the government’s electronic tools. Furthermore, it is a necessary step towards the development of more remote procedures and formalities.

On January 2017, the Government Secretariat of Modernisation introduced the Technical Guidelines for System Interoperability. The guidelines specify the technical requirements for the design, scope and architecture of the systems that are used to exchange information among institutions.1 The institution that needs a piece of information under the control of another organisation must submit a request through a module in the System of Electronic Management of Files.

Many of the initiatives mentioned above converge in the digital platform for the public sector. The platform was introduced in February 2017 and derives from the desire of the public administration to improve the quality of the services offered to the citizens, especially those that can be managed remotely.

The website argentina.gob.ar includes the electronic profile of citizens, allows users to make appointments to carry out an administrative procedure and includes a list of formalities arranged by life events – further details are included in the following section. Also, the platform should include all the websites that are currently available, as well as those that are created in the future (Decree 87/2017).

On August 2018, Decree 733/2018 was introduced. This legal instrument is the last addition to the list of regulations that promote a paperless government and streamlined procedures. The aforementioned decree covers some of the points discussed above since it makes it mandatory for entities of the National Public Administration to have defined deadlines for administrative procedures that must be made by citizens and businesses, eliminates the possibility of requesting physical documents and restricts the number of times that a piece of information can be asked from the regulated subjects (Decree 733/2018). Although this decree reduces significantly the administrative burden faced by society, it does not mean that all formalities that are done by citizens and businesses are available digitally.

Other institutions, policies and practices for administrative simplification in Argentina

Decree 891/2017 for Good Practices in Simplification

In the second half of 2017, Argentina issued Decree 891/2017 for Good Practices in Simplification, whose main objective was the elimination of outdated regulations and the simplification of laws, formalities and rules are necessary elements to improve the quality of the public services. It is also particularly relevant as it emphasises four elements that reduce red tape and aims at controlling de regulatory stock, which are:

  • Regulatory simplification: Regulations should be clear, precise and easy to understand. In many cases, regulations are drafted using confusing language and are not straightforward, which leads to misunderstandings and difficulties in terms of implementation and compliance. By elaborating better-drafted regulations and revising existing ones, the government reduces the administrative burden for citizens and businesses.

  • Continuous improvement: The public administration should encourage the use of ICT tools to improve the process and, therefore, reduce the response time to issues presented by the citizens. Anecdotal evidence shows that uncertainty regarding response time is one of the main complaints of businesses. The creation of streamlined procedures in which public institutions comply with the deadlines imposed by the regulation improves the business environment and fosters a better relationship with the regulated subjects.

  • Digital government: The federal government should promote collaboration with subnational governments, especially through the use of ICT. The interoperability of the systems and platforms used by the different administrative levels and institutions – also promoted by Decree 87/2017 – should make it easier for the citizens to interact with the government. Moreover, the development of an environment in which institutions exchange information should reduce the information requirements and paperwork for citizens and businesses. The former is particularly important, as “paperwork is usually identified by regulated subjects as the most annoying and as a negative symbol of bureaucracy” (OECD, 2010[1]).

  • Creation of registries: New registries in the central administration must be digital and approved by the Chief of the Cabinet of Ministers. The idea behind is to limit the establishment of new requirements for the regulated subjects, on top of making existing registries available on line and free of access. On meetings with line ministries, officials mentioned as an issue the constant creation of registries and the administrative burden that they imply.

The measures established in Decree 891/2017 for Good Practices in Simplification are in the right direction and follow practices of OECD member countries, but they should be complemented with proper oversight arrangements. Furthermore, the lack of formal guidelines might limit the implementation of the practices included in the legal instrument.

All the efforts mentioned above are horizontal initiatives that can be used by all the institutions of the Argentinian government. However, simplification and digitisation of formalities and procedures on specific sectors such as trade and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have also taken place. The One-stop-shop for Foreign Trade and the creation of a new type of societal figure to help SMEs – the Simplified Shares’ Partnership – are the most notable initiatives.

One-stop-shop for Foreign Trade

The Argentinian Government acknowledged the importance of simplifying the formalities and procedures faced by firms that want to import or export goods. This is why, in October 2016, the Ministry of Production issued Decree 1079/2016 that creates the One-stop-shop for Foreign Trade with the following objectives:

  • Provide more efficiency in the administration of formalities.

  • Gather procedures, regulations and formalities to optimise their application.

  • Simplify and improve the administration of formalities.

  • Manage the information and data of the public entities.

Two main bodies are in charge of the creation of the Single Windows of Foreign Trade (VUCE), the Coordination Committee and the Executing Unit of the One-stop-shop Regime. The Coordination Committee gathers representatives from the Chief of the Cabinet of Ministers, the Government Secretariat of Modernisation, the Ministry of Production and Labour and the Federal Administration of Internal Revenue. It is in charge of promoting relevant regulations, develop ICT tools and allow for the interaction between different IT systems. Furthermore, it must design the guidelines that will follow the VUCE to comply with the rules of the MERCOSUR and the World Customs Organization.

As a complement to the objectives of the committee, the executing unit of the One-stop-shop Regime focuses on the implementation and administration of the VUCE (Decree 416/2017). The unit is a deconcentrated body of the Ministry of Production and Labour and its objectives are closely linked to the simplification of procedures, bylaws, rules and formalities related to foreign trade in order to provide greater efficiency, promote a paperless administration and co-ordinate the institutional actors involved in the VUCE. It is worth mentioning that the unit is set to cease existing in 2021 – when the VUCE should be fully functional according to the plan set by the Argentinian government.

Users can access the VUCE through the website https://www.argentina.gob.ar/vuce, which contains relevant information organised by the institution. At the time of the elaboration of this report, the VUCE included 291 formalities distributed according to Table 4.2.

Furthermore, the VUCE includes a module called Easy Export, which streamlines the exportation process, especially for SMEs. To use the Easy Export platform businesses must comply with four major requirements: i) the goods must be new; ii) the shipping weigh must be less than 300 kg; iii) the value of the merchandise must be less than USD 15 000; and iv) the value of the exports during the year must be less than USD 600 000. This platform offers a completely remote option for small businesses that want to export. It eliminates the formalities, easing the procedure and reducing the costs and administrative burdens.

As with other initiatives to improve government processes, the focus on the VUCE was to have paperless procedures. This has benefited citizens and businesses as the administrative burdens have been reduced due to savings in time for not having to visit physically government offices and thanks to the management of the formalities on line. As in the rest of the other e-government initiatives, little evidence was found of an active strategy of administrative simplification in the implementation of the VUCE, such as the elimination of data requirements.

Table ‎4.2. Formalities available in the VUCE
Number of formalities available by institution

Border Security

(1)

Ministry of National Security

(10)

National Geographic Institute

(1)

Ministry of Agroindustry

(25)

Ministry of Production and Labour

(96)

National Seed Institute

(7)

Ministry of Culture

(4)

Ministry of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation

(8)

National Scientific and Technical Research Council

(3)

Ministry of Energy and Mining

(5)

National Administration of Medicines, Food and Medical Technology

(63)

National Viticulture Institute

(5)

Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development

(18)

National Agency for Controlled Materials

(9)

Nuclear Regulatory Authority

(2)

Ministry of Justice and Human Rights (3)

National Food Safety and Quality Service

(26)

Transport Regulatory Commission

(5)

Note: The agencies in charge of the formalities may have changed due to the reorganisation of the Public Administration (Decree 801/2018 and Decree 802/2018).

Simplified Shares’ Partnership

As a way of encouraging entrepreneurial activity in the country and promoting its introduction in the international markets, the Argentinian government issued Law 27.349 of Support to Entrepreneurial Capital. The law created a new kind of legal figure that simplifies and reduces the procedures that businesses, and especially SMEs, need to follow to formalise their activities. The Simplified Shares’ Partnership (SAS) can be created and registered remotely with the participation of one or more partners. This reduces the time and resources that entrepreneurs devote to complying with the regulation (Law 27349).

Currently, the SAS are only available for businesses located in the City and the Province of Buenos Aires; however, the Ministry of Production and Labour is working with the rest of the provinces to implement the necessary changes to introduce the SAS in their legislation.

The Productive Simplification Secretariat

On January 2018, the Productive Simplification Secretariat was created and incorporated to the Ministry of Production and Labour (MPT). The secretariat focuses on the de-bureaucratisation of procedures, laws and formalities that are relevant to the industry, businesses and investment (Decree 62/2018)

In the practice, the Productive Simplification Secretariat has focused on two tasks: the ex ante assessment of draft regulation coming from the MPT, and the reduction of burdens from formalities for citizens and businesses belonging to the MPT. Even though the secretariat was recently created, it has defined guidelines on topics such as cost-benefit analysis and quantification of compliance costs to perform these tasks.

On ex ante evaluation, the secretariat has evaluated draft regulations for the automotive and auto parts market and for certificates of origin. The assessments of these regulations include recommendations on the language that is used, the identification of data requirements that are unnecessary and the detection of paragraphs that should be eliminated from the regulatory proposal. See Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 for more information on this topic.

On reduction of burdens, the Productive Simplification Secretariat has taken an active role to implement a programme within the MPT to reduce administrative burdens for citizens and businesses, using the methodology of the Standard Cost Model (SCM) as the guiding framework. OECD governments are keen on carrying out administrative burdens reduction programmes as their results are easy to understand and to communicate to the citizens (OECD, 2010[1]). The measurement of administrative burdens is also helpful since it defines a baseline for governments to start improving their regulations and allows for the definition of priorities regarding which formalities and procedures simplify first.

Most of the OECD member countries use the Standard Cost Model (SCM), or an adaptation of it, to measure their administrative burdens. The SCM considers the time that citizens – or people that have to comply with a regulation – devote to the preparation of the paperwork, the time it takes them to go to the government’s office, waiting time at the office and the cost of the supplies that were necessary to fulfil all the requirements set in the formality or regulation (SCM Network, n.d.[2]).

Currently, although within the Argentinian government there is no legal obligation to measure the administrative burdens of regulations and formalities, the Productive Simplification Secretariat is putting the topic on the table and has issued documents describing the SCM as well as the relevance of measuring administrative burdens. The secretariat also reports that it has applied measures of administrative simplification to 43 formalities belonging to the MPT, and using the SCM, it has measured that these actions have reduced burdens to citizens and businesses in the order of ARS 21 million.

Management of the stock of regulation

Access to the stock of administrative procedures and regulations

Making the stock of administrative procedures and regulations available to citizens and businesses is a way of increasing transparency and reducing the room for corruption. In fact, Law 27.275 of the Right to Access to Public Information acknowledges this and promotes the participation of society and transparency in the public administration by making available the information managed by entities of the Argentinian government.

The Argentinian government provides free access to its stock of regulations through several databases: i) Official Gazette (www.boletinoficial.gob.ar); ii) legislative databases (www.infoleg.gob.ar); and iii) judicial repositories (www.saij.gob.ar). These websites can be accessed freely and they seem to be in line with practices followed by OECD countries.

Furthermore, the website www.argentina.gob.ar contains formalities organised by life events and services. This arrangement makes it easy for citizens and businesses to find relevant information. However, during the several meetings that the OECD secretariat and the peer review team held with ministries and agencies of the Argentinian government, they stated that they could not confirm that the complete inventory of formalities and administrative procedures is included in this website.

Also, it is necessary to point out that most ministries and public institutions do not know exactly the number of formalities that they manage and do not have an inventory available for citizens for reference. Currently, the inventory is on the making, as every time a new formality is available through the Remotely Conducted Administrative Procedures website it is registered. Even though the inventory of remote formalities is a good initiative, it is important to create a catalogue with all the administrative procedures in each ministry and public institution.

Creating an exhaustive inventory with all the formalities and information requirements to which businesses and citizens are subject to, is a necessary step in order to assess the regulatory stock and the administrative burdens correctly. The inventory must be updated, of easy access and free of charge.

Ex post reviews of the stock of regulation

“The evaluation of existing policies through ex post impact analysis is necessary to ensure that regulations are effective and efficient” (OECD, 2012[3]), nonetheless is one of the least developed practices in OECD countries. In fact, two-thirds of OECD countries do not have a formal mandate to carry out ex post evaluations (OECD, 2018[4]). Argentina has made efforts to implement ex post reviews of its regulations; however, they remain isolated and are not fully articulated.

Decree 891/2017 for Good Practices in Simplification mentions the need to evaluate the regulatory stock of the National Public Administration and to remove unnecessary regulations and to reduce the stock of administrative burdens. As in the other elements included in the decree, the institutional arrangement does not include a body or an institution in charge of overseeing the elaboration of these assessments.

On January 2018, the Argentinian government issued a decree urging entities of the public administration to eliminate regulations and administrative burdens that hinder production and business activity in the country and that urgently needed to be removed from the regulatory stock. Decree 27/2018 for De-bureaucratisation and Simplification introduced more than 100 elimination or modifications of regulations based on consultations made to institutions of the public administration.

Given that Decree 27/2018 was a Decree of Necessity and Urgency (DNU), congress issued three laws to replace it. The laws gather most of the modifications included in the decree and are divided as follows:

  • Law 27.444 of Simplification and De-bureaucratization for the Productive Development of the Nation focuses on regulations relevant for SMEs and businesses.

  • Law 27.445 of Simplification and De-bureaucratization for the Development of Infrastructure addresses the administrative burden in ports, airports and roads.

  • Law 27.446 of Simplification and De-bureaucratization of the National Public Administration includes modifications to the administration of public goods and the use of electronic files.

It is important to point out that most of the regulations included in the laws mentioned before represented outdated paragraphs or regulations, which in practice it is fair to assume that they generated few administrative burdens for citizens and businesses.

References

[9] OECD (2019), Digital Government Review of Argentina, Accelerating the Digitalisation of the Public Sector, Key Findings, OECD, http://www.oecd.org/gov/digital-government/digital-government-review-argentina-key-findings-2018.pdf (accessed on 10 February 2019).

[4] OECD (2018), OECD Regulatory Policy Outlook 2018, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264303072-en.

[7] OECD (2018), OECD Regulatory Policy Outlook 2018, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264303072-en.

[5] OECD (2017), OECD Economic Surveys: Argentina 2017: Multi-dimensional Economic Survey, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/eco_surveys-arg-2017-en.

[6] OECD (2015), OECD Regulatory Policy Outlook 2015, OECD Publishing, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264238770-en.

[3] OECD (2012), Recommendation of the Council on Regulatory Policy and Governance, OECD, Paris, https://www.oecd.org/governance/regulatory-policy/49990817.pdf (accessed on 2 August 2017).

[8] OECD (2011), Regulatory Policy and Governance: Supporting Economic Growth and Serving the Public Interest, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264116573-en.

[1] OECD (2010), Cutting Red Tape: Why Is Administrative Simplification So Complicated?: Looking beyond 2010, Cutting Red Tape, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264089754-en (accessed on 2 August 2017).

[2] SCM Network (n.d.), International Standard Cost Model Manual, http://www.oecd.org/gov/regulatory-policy/34227698.pdf (accessed on 2 August 2017).

Note

← 1. On March 2018, the Administrative Modernisation Secretariat updated the guidelines through Resolution 19/2018.

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