It was Saturday morning, a week after the Tsagaan Sar festivities, and I was sound asleep when my phone rang. The call was from Bayangol district tax authority, asking "Is this Enkhtsetseg Boldbaatar?" As a new homeowner and a resident of Khan-Uul district, I was eligible for a tax exemption, so I collected the necessary documents and submitted them. However, I jumped out of bed and got dressed when the Bayangol district tax officer told me that I had submitted the documents to the Bayangol district tax authority instead of the one for Khan-Uul district. I was not too happy about that.
Since I submitted the materials to the integrated state services hub at the Dunjingarav shopping centre, which serves regardless of district, I called their call centre and furiously explained my issue. Soon the tax inspector who served me, Norjmaa, called back to ask what happened. So, I demanded that the inspector clear up the issue, saying I would lodge a complaint if I cannot receive my tax discount due to this mix-up, before hanging up my phone. A second call came in; it was her again. She said: "Could you please bring your documents from the Bayangol district tax authority to our centre? You can arrange for someone else to deliver the documents if you cannot. If not, the deadline for this tax reimbursement is nearing, and on top of that, our centre is a bit short-staffed right now to send someone for your documents." I headed out to resolve the issue myself, cursing the government’s garbage for service.
This issue came up after I decided to take advantage of the tax exemption in January. I started to collect the necessary materials and documents for this tax incentive for purchasing an apartment after asking how from aco-worker. Since most of the materials were taken from the bank that provided me with a housing loan, everything seemed to be going smoothly. In addition, I gathered bunch of materials both useful and useless, because I heard of about people bounced around place to place because they needed one thing or another (actually there was no need of these materials at all). Finally, I was about to go to the Khan-Uul district tax office after gathering all the required materials, but at the last moment decided to go to the integrated service centre at the Dunjingarav shopping centre after hearing about the place.
After entering through a big glass door, a large space with orderly tables and a variety of service providers in open rooms lining the walls welcomed me. Information officers kindly asked "What service do you seek?" right after I entered the door. So I waited for my turn after getting my queue number from the machine. People were buzzing around in there, since it was the weekend. I found out that starting this year, people had to fill application forms instead of submitting hand written statements, so I got to it. According to a woman who came to submit her own documents, things have become more convenient this year since many state services are centralised here. While waiting for my turn, I observed my surroundings. There were government service e-machines, self-service photo machines, a notary, copying services and banking services in sight. Even a children's playground and coffee shop were there. Information officers who were walking around the hall spotted the people looking confused to help them. However, I noticed that a few of the service windows had much longer queues than the others. I asked out of curiosity about what service these people are queuing for, and found out that they were lining up to pay vehicle taxes.
Soon the inspector at counter number 34 called my number and asked me whether I had my documents checked by the material checkers. I told her "Yes, I did" (I didn't). After closely sitting with the inspector for about 20 minutes, she said "everything is ok," and I left the service centre satisfied.
Yet, about three weeks later, I found out that the tax reimbursement documents I submitted were mistakenly taken to a different district, forcing me to come back. Since it was a weekend, I hurried to make it there before the place closes. When I took my documents from the tax authority of Bayangol district, I found out that I addressed my documents to the Bayangol district office with my own hands. Thus, the issues were clearly all because of me. I headed to Dunjingarav thinking that I would have to wait until next year if I cannot receive the reimbursement this year due to this. I met with inspector Norjmaa at counter number 34, worrying that I would be scolded – civil servants are known for being grumpy. I tried to deflect the blame, saying that the document checking officer should have noticed the incorrect address, although I never went to any material checker. I said sternly: "Well, I guess it is my fault. I made a mistake on the address."The inspector said "Oh really, I was wondering what went wrong and was worried that I would be held responsible." A smile appeared on her face conveying her relief, and she took a deep breath. Thus, this time she took my documents after checking for mistakes, and this bout of state service finally came to an end. I shoved the door of this centre angrily when I entered, but shut it gently when leaving.
It was step forward in mending the reputation of public services, which is said to be slow and bureaucratic. The responses and arrangements were prompt, even though things got delayed due to my error. An individual who is seeking out a service should definitely check whether there are any mistakes before blaming the service provider. It also demonstrates that the help of the information officer and examination of materials are necessary. Currently, the Ulaanbaatar integrated service centre provides 245 types of services of 27 organisations. Of those services provided, more than 80 services are being resolved directly on the spot, while other services take a day or more. They are planning to increase the services offered to 500 in the future.
Since the inception of the integrated service centre, 27 complaints have been filed by citizens. During the meeting of the Ulaanbaatar Management Committee held last month, the complaint submitted by N.Dulamjav, a resident of Bayanzurkh district, was discussed. Dulamjav sought the services of the General Authority for State Registration on February 4, 2016, and the worker handling the issue communicated with Dulamjav with signs and nods instead of answering the questions. She also wrote in her complaint that the person at the service counter was putting on make-up and was unresponsive when the citizen asked her to speed things up. Dulamjav attended the meeting in person. On the website of the capital city’s administration, she posted: "Although I received the service, it was very difficult for me to communicate. The person who was beside me was offended as well." It is not that common for civil servant officials to openly disclose such complaints.
The majority of complaints submitted by citizens concerned the communication skills of the employees handling service requests and their knowledge of the job. Although few complaints were filed and the ones that were received were discussed during the meeting, the mayor of Ulaanbaatar said that not a single citizen must be dissatisfied by the quality of service.
Citizens seem to go make vehicle tax payments and seek tax reimbursement services more than the others offered. In addition, they increased staff, as these popular services had long queues and those in line had to be turned away when it was closing time. Another frustration expressed by people about the centre was the fact it had branches of only three banks: Ulaanbaatar Bank, Capital Bank and Capitron Bank. People are also unsatisfied with the social insurance services at the centre, because it has been turning citizens away, saying they would only provide services to the residents of Khan-Uul district.
Since the New Year, about 70 thousand people have sought services at the centre. About 60 percent of these people were able to get their issues solved on the spot. O.Munkh-Orgil, head of the capital city integrated service centre said: "In the future, we will establish such service centres at Misheel Expo and Dragon centre." By doing so, government services will get closer to people on the outskirts of the city.
The motto of this centre is "Fast, Even and Open." I, a city resident who sought the services of this centre, will give it a grade of 85 percent. There is still room for improvement. Next year, I will go back. At that time, whether my evaluation improves or not will depend on the efforts of the staff.