With laughter through tears it can be said that so-called mailbox companies have a paradise here in Slovakia. But when companies are to have mailboxes, it’s considered a problem. This issue has a history several years long, which culminates now and has three levels. The first level is an intention of the government to replace the paper-form correspondence between citizens, companies and government, with an electronic one. The second is a totally failed promotion of this issue and nearly zero awareness about this intention among the entrepreneurs. The third is a difficult functioning of the system.
So that the government doesn’t have to send citizens and companies documents and vice versa, a virtual mailbox was created for each citizen and company, which would carry out the conversation. This intention is okay, but it won’t be enough. If the project is to be successful, the government should implement two other changes. The first is a decrease in information duties of citizens and companies towards the government. This is the exact opposite of the current situation, where the number of duties is increasing instead. The second is the exchange of information among the authorities so the government won’t burden citizens and companies with asking for the same documents several times. This is not happening either.
Skepticism strikes as soon as we take a look at the short history of managing these virtual mailboxes. In 2013, a bill about an “e-Government” was passed. In the years 2013 and 2014, the government quietly created virtual mailboxes for all citizens and legal persons. There was a time-bomb in the bill in the form of a time limit, which was set to August 1, 2015. Until that date, the companies could activate their mailboxes voluntarily, however, after that date the mailboxes should have been activated automatically. Despite that, nothing happened, so the time limit was moved to August 1, 2016. But even after a year nothing has changed.
Out of the 270,000 legal persons with a created virtual mailbox, only 1,600 were activated. The activation of the mailbox has a severe practical implication. Using the virtual mailbox, the authorities can send documents with the same legal effects and consequences as if they were sent in paper form. The ignorance of the law is not an excuse. Even if it results from a complete lack of information campaign from the government. The evidence is that 99.5% companies didn’t yet activate it. And it’s safe to say most of the companies didn’t activate it not because they put off this duty to the very last moment, but simply because they have no idea that it exists (!).
And even if you know about it, the cause isn’t settled. The system is anything but easy to use. The statutory of the legal person has to have an ID card with chips, a card reader and a security code. From the 4.5 million ID cards only 1.5 has a chip, which means that statistically, almost seven out of ten statutes have old IDs. Moreover, most people are used to communicating e.g. with a bank via a mobile app, so a necessity of additional devices to access the mailbox will be considered a step back.
All levels of the problem intersect in the new bureau created by the Deputy Prime Minister for investment and informatization Peter Pelegriny. Its successful management in the coming months would be his first test.
Translated by Filip Bolčo