By: CHRIS GRAEME
PRIME MINISTER José Sócrates announced in parliament last week a range of measures to cut bureaucracy in the Portuguese civil service.
Among them are new, state-of-the-art Citizens’ Shops (Lojas do Cidadão), booking appointments with doctors and consultants online, and easy electronic access to government sites for the disabled.
In the first debate of the season following the summer recess, Sócrates also talked about reforms to both the taxation and customs systems before the end of the year.
“Many government processes will be divulged and made available on the internet with obvious advantages with regards to speed, efficiency and transparency,” he said.
In relation to the opening of the new, so-called ‘second generation’ Citizens’ Shops, the Prime Minister confirmed that the first one would open in Odivelas in December.
According to Sócrates, the Citizens’ Shops would not simply be a collection of government administrative department office branches under one roof. The Lojas would function independently with their own powers to dispense administrative services in their own right. In other words, an integrated package of services would be offered from one point alone by qualified staff rather than the citizen having to wait hours queuing at one desk after another.
“The objective is to have a Loja do Cidadão in every district in Portugal in the medium term. But we are going to start the process off with 30 new shops in the short term, or within a year,” he said.
José Sócrates added that certain new services that would be made widely available at the new Citizens’ Shops would begin immediately at the Laranjeiras branch, for example the ‘I’ve Lost My Wallet’ (Perdi a Carteira) service, which aims to help people get reissued with key documents such as tax, health and social security cards, Cartão de Segurança Social, and identity cards, Bilhete de Identidade.
This particular emergency help desk for lost or stolen documents will be available at all Citizens’ Shops as of 2008.
Another measure announced by the Prime Minister was the completion of linked electronic and administrative services between health centres, Centros de Saúde, and hospitals. “Gradually, during the first half of 2008, medical appointments can be booked via the internet through the family doctor,” he stated.
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