The state has spent approximately CZK 300 million on access to eGovernment services, but it is used by a small number of citizens.
Press release on audit No 19/14 – 13 July 2020
The Supreme Audit Office (SAO) has scrutinized funds provided by the Ministry of the Interior (MoI) for the computerisation of public administration between the years 2012 and 2019. The auditors focused primarily on key eGovernment tools, on the electronic identification system and the Citizen Portal on which the MoI, along with the introduction of electronic identification cards, spent around CZK 300 million. However, the computerisation of public administration services was progressing very slowly by the end of 2019. Citizens did not have enough information about these services and the offer of services was limited. The Czech Republic thus lags behind other EU countries. The audit has revealed that only a small number of people used the system of electronic identification, i.e., electronic identification cards (eIC) and the Citizen Portal.
“It was revealed, unfortunately, that, despite the fact the Czech Republic developed an eGovernment infrastructure and invested substantial resources into the system, services for citizens had not improved. For example, this year’s situation with the coronavirus crisis has shown how important it is for the state administration to be able to provide remote services to its citizens,” said SAO President Miloslav Kala.
The electronic identification system and the Citizen Portal was launched by the MoI in 2018 with the intention to facilitate access for citizens to the digital services of public administration. At the same time, the intention was to contribute to greater transparency and flexibility of public administration.
The cost of establishing the electronic identification system has reached almost CZK 160 million. The MoI has launched the system and has started issuing eICs, which the citizens can use for electronic identification when dealing with authorities. By the end of 2019, the MoI issued over 1.75 million eICs. However, only 13% of card holders activated the certificate for electronic identification included in the cards. The cost of issued eICs increased by more than CZK 52 million.
People can use the Citizen Portal to contact authorities. The Portal was developed by the MoI and the National Agency for Communication and Information Technologies (Národní agentura pro komunikační a informační technologie, NAKIT). Since 2017, the MoI has concluded contracts totalling almost CZK 87 million based on so-called vertical cooperation, that is, outside standard tendering procedures. The NAKIT subsequently commissioned most of the work regarding the Citizen Portal to an external supplier, and used the framework contract concluded in 2015 for this purpose.
Citizens have shown little interest in the Citizen Portal. By the end of 2019, only 0.5% of adults in the Czech Republic logged in to the Portal. The offer of services in the Citizen Portal is limited and a large part of the services requires setting up a data mailbox. The MoI claimed that 100 e-services would be available for citizens, but in fact, only 29 state administration services were available in the Portal. In fact, the MoI included services to which the Portal only redirected its users, for example to the Tax Portal or the Czech Social Security Administration.
The MoI did not analyse which services citizens are most interested in when it was designing the Citizen Portal. Such a survey was performed, for example, by the British Government Digital Service, from which the MoI drew inspiration, and which also recommended the MoI to perform such a survey beforehand. Since 2016, the MoI had already been aware of the fact that citizens knew little about eGovernment services, yet by the end of the audit a comprehensive awareness campaign on the electronic identification system and the Citizen Portal was not launched by the MoI.
Increasing the range of services was complicated by the fact that authorities were not obliged to join the Citizen Portal and the MoI had no legislative tools to make them join the Portal. The Law on Digital Services which has been effective since February 2020 should improve the situation. It establishes the right of citizens to use digital services and imposes an obligation on public authorities to provide such services.
Supreme Audit Office