Azerbaijan Ramps Up Inspections Reform with World Bank Group Support
The Investment Climate Advisory Services of the World Bank Group is assisting the government of Azerbaijan in tackling inspections reform through initiatives to not only improve the systems and processes for inspections, but also create forums for knowledge sharing and exchange among practitioners.
In May 2011 Azerbaijan launched the Electronic Registry of Inspections. The centralized e-Registry sets clear procedures for both inspectors and businesses, and allows for process traceability, post-inspection evaluation, and accurate data collection. Entrepreneurs will now have better access to information about planned inspections and can request clearance notification on the validity of an upcoming inspection. The e-Registry is expected to improve the effectiveness of business inspections and help strengthen compliance with government regulations.
"As a platform facilitating interaction between controlling agencies and businesses, the e-Registry of Inspections will help improve the investment climate in the country," noted Ilqar Mamedov, Head of the Registration and Notary General Department at Azerbaijan's Ministry of Justice. The e-Registry brings concrete improvements to the inspections system, including:
Building on the momentum for reform generated by the launch of the e-Registry, IFC partnered with the government to host a conference on inspections reform in late May 2011. The conference attracted representatives from government, the private sector, academia, and media in Azerbaijan and focused on sharing good examples of inspections systems and practices from other countries in the region and around the globe. Co-hosted by the Ministry of Economic Development, the Ministry of Justice, the Confederation of Entrepreneurs, and the Twinning Project of the European Union, it showcased experience in inspections policy reforms from five countries—Canada, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. Participants engaged in lively discussions on topics ranging from food safety, fire safety and workplace safety, to how information technology can increase the effectiveness of business inspections, including risk-based planning.
"The conference focused on priority areas in the government's strategy to build a competitive economy and boost the export potential of the small and medium enterprise sector," said Niyazi Safarov, Azerbaijan's Deputy Minister of Economic Development. "Sharing experiences will help improve the delivery of public services to support economic development through private sector growth."
The Azerbaijan project which is supported by the Swiss Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) has been working closely with the government on additional areas of inspections reform at the policy and procedural levels. It supported drafting of Unified Inspection Rules and Check List Guidelines which were submitted for review by the Cabinet of Ministers. It has also been working with the Fire Inspections Division at the Ministry of Emergency to build awareness around the concept of using checklists. Regional-level workshops were organized in partnership with the Ministry, the Confederation of Entrepreneurs and the Ministry of Economic Development. The workshops helped introduce, for the first time, an inspections checklists concept to nearly 300 inspectors and 400 entrepreneurs across Azerbaijan. In addition to traditional training sessions ten demonstration inspections were held at business premises to help entrepreneurs better understand the fire inspection process.
For businesses, these inspection reform measures have offered better information and transparency. Ibrahim Baharov, who owns fitness centers in Baku that regularly undergo inspections related to health and safety, explains: "The new system has streamlined procedures and reduced the possibility for informal payments during inspections. As a business we are better positioned to accurately project our expenses and remain compliant to ensure consumer safety." Investment Climate projects in Ukraine, Belarus, Tajikistan, Armenia, and the Kyrgyz Republic are also prioritizing inspections reform given the similarity of challenges these countries face with inspections systems inherited from the Soviet regime. As such, modernization, cross-country collaboration and learning are central to the Bank Group's efforts in this area across the Europe and Central Asia (ECA) region.