The government’s Citizen Feedback Monitoring System that was launched three years ago has not been able to realise its twin goals of eradicating corruption and malpractice in public departments due to loopholes which allow wriggle room to officials.
The Express Tribune has learnt that a major flaw in the system was identified at a meeting convened to review its performance over a month ago. The chief secretary had chaired the meeting. An officer present on the occasion revealed that the chief secretary had reprimanded some district officials when he found out that some of their subordinates had fudged data regarding the number of citizens who had approached them for routine public services including obtaining domicile certificates, driving licences, property registration, rescue services, flood relief assistance or treatment at emergency wards of public hospitals.
He said the chief secretary had also noted the absence of a mechanism to ensure entry of authentic contact details in the system’s dashboard which would facilitate the collection of citizens’ feedback. The official said some officials had exploited the loophole to enter fictitious contact numbers or details of their agents who would tout the system. He said a significant number of people who visited public departments were ignorant about how the system functioned and failed to insert correct information in the database at the time of service delivery. The official said this gave corrupt officials a chance to indulge in malpractice. He said the chief secretary had instructed relevant officials to remedy the flaws. The official said the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) had issued a statement regarding the recent identification of some loopholes in the system in the wake of the meeting.
PITB Chairman Umar Saif told The Express Tribune that the government had decided to install 2,000 kiosks at prominent places in government departments to plug the loopholes. He said PITB personnel would man the kiosks. Saif said the initiative would enable even the illiterate to place their complaints online in an authentic manner.
He said the kiosks would be set up at select places such as THQ and DHQ hospitals and offices of district revenue collectors in the initiative’s first phase. Saif said kiosks would be placed at the Civil Secretariat and offices of commissioners, DCOs, RPOs, DPOs, ACs and TMOs province-wide over time. He said Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and the chief secretary were striving hard to ensure the initiative was a success.
PITB E-Governance Joint Director Fasih Mehta said work on the initiative would commence as soon as the design of the kiosks had been finalised. He said the PITB had been treading cautiously on this account as it involved a large amount of public finances. Mehta said a tender for procurement of kiosks would be floated after the design of the machines had been finalised.
He said the PITB wanted the design to be scalable and modular. Mehta said this meant that menus at kiosks would vary from place to place. He said the kiosks would transfer real-time data to the system’s dashboard.
Separately, the Lahore, Sheikhupura and Nankana Sahib DCOs have counselled Saif to make a provision in the system that would send SMS alerts to concerned DCOs in the event of corrupt behaviour being reported in the CFMS dashboard. They also suggested all department EDOs to be given access to the dashboard to facilitate grievances to be quickly addressed. Saif has directed system administrators to incorporate the suggestions in the feedback system.
A PITB official told The Express Tribune on the condition of anonymity that no funds had been allocated for the initiative in the ADB 2015-2016. He said the first phase of the project would be financed through cross-utilisation from different initiatives. He said PC-1 (project digest) was being revised in light of prices quoted by vendors. Mehta refused to comment in this regard saying he was not authorised to reveal the information.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2015.