Enabling Responsive Governance, Cutting Time in Service Delivery
Mazar-e-Sharif: Marzia, resident of Baba Kambar area in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif, found her husband disappear after the floods. She was left to fend for herself and her three daughters. Marziya approached the Citizen Service Centre (CSC) located in the Provincial Governor’s Office, with her grievance. Her petition was directly supervised by the Deputy Governor who instructed the Justice Department to thoroughly examine the merits of her case. Once she is cleared, Marziya will be recommended for support from the provincial social services department.
Amrullah, 50, a small-time shopkeeper in Mazar, recently found his grocery shop go up in flames as a result of electrical short-circuiting in the shop that caused a heater to caught fire. Distraught at losing his only source of earning, Amrullah, father to five children and disabled, a victim of land mine explosion during the civil war d uring 1990s, did not know what to do or where to go looking for help. Until a friend advised him to petition the Provincial Governorby filing a request for help at the CSC.
- The United Nations Development Programme-supported Citizens Service Centre that started functioning in March 2012 has helped bridge the distance between the citizens and the provincial authorities and shown the provincial government to be of real-time assistance to the citizens.
- The ANDMA director Mr. Rahmatullah Zahid consulted his technical team, and based on the order of Balkh Governor, Amrullah received 120 Kg of coal, 4 warm blankets and 50 Kg rice and some other food items for his household use, free of cost.
- On an average 100 people visit the center on a daily basis.
- When fully staffed, the CSC will have 50 percent female staff, a move designed to enable women to access municipal services in greater numbers.
Amrullah walked up to the CSC and submitted his request letter using the single-window clearance system. After due verification by the CSC staff, the request was promptly put up for the attention of the the Governor of Balkh Province. The Governor reviewed the case and tasked the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Agency (ANDMA) to take appropriate action that secures help for Amrullah and his family.
The ANDMA director Mr. Rahmatullah Zahid consulted his technical team, and based on the order of Balkh Governor, Amrullah received 120 Kg of coal, 4 warm blankets and 50 Kg rice and some other food items for his household use, free of cost. From the initial request to the delivery of relief items, it only took four working days.
The United Nations Development Programme-supported Citizens Service Centre that started functioning in March 2012 has helped bridge the distance between the citizens and the provincial authorities and shown the provincial government to be of real-time assistance to the citizens. The CSC is part of the services package under the UNDP Afghanistan Sub National Governance Progamme (ASGP).
Prior to March 2012, there was not a systematic streamlined approach with one entry point, which centralized the reception of petitions, grievances and need requests from citizens at the Provincial Governors Office. Effectively, there was no clear mechanism in place for the citizens to petition the Governor, Deputy Governor and other senior officials, resulting in a growing distance between citizens and the government. Citizens had to wait on an average up to three working days before they could get an audience with the concerned administration departments. In the absence of a single standardized entry point, access to government officials depended on personal equations. Even worse, as there was no indoor reception facility, citizens had to endure long hours of wait in the open in summer heat and winter chills while their requests were collected under open sky, on an hoc basis by the person assigned the task of a receptionist.
In 2010, following a detailed diagnostics by ASGP and extensive consultations with authorities in the Provincial Governor’s Office, a project proposal was developed for the establishment of the Balkh Citizen Service Centre. The centre was completed by March 2012.
Today, on an average, 20 petitions are filed by citizens on a weekly basis. These are systematically followed through, often in conjunction with the department of Justice, the Police Department and other law enforcement agencies for expeditious resolution of citizen-centric issues.
Text: Kumar M Tiku and Yugesh Pradhanang
Customer Service Center in Mazar Municipality Brings Services Within Reach of Citizens
Alongside the Citizens Services Centre, ASGP has helped build up the Customer Services Centre for residents of Mazar Municipality.
On an average 100 people visit the center on a daily basis. Services sought by citizens range from request for land records, permission for construction, certificates of attestation for deaths and martyrs of war to claim special benefits, applications for the municipality shops and payment of taxes. Requests from about 20 per cent of the customers are disposed off at the service center. The rest are systematically directed to the concerned department in the Municipality for further redressal.
Lauding ASGP efforts in streamlining customer services in the Muncipality, Engineer Rafiullah Amiri, the Deputy Mayor of the Balkh Municipality says, “Before the centre came into existence we had no clear system to deal with the daily flood of customers. The customers were severely inconvenienced as they ran from pillar to post in search of the right department official that was equipped to handle their request. The entire process has become completely systematic now as the customers are guided to just the right desk. The stampede-like situation that was a daily occurrence in the Municipality offices is now a thing of the past”.
The center manager, Gul Ahmed Khan identifies some areas of improvement: “For one, the staffing for the centre must be integrated with the staffing structure of the Municipality and the tashkeel . This will ensure that we have permanent staff for continuity in services”, avers Mr. Khan . He highlights the need for training staff in the culture of real-time response and client-orientation. “Our services need to be computerized and to that extent what is needed is a complete overhaul and reengineering of the business processes of the Municipality. The efficiency gains will be immense. For a start, issuing of permits and licenses that forms the bulk of the workload must be computerized”, says Khan.
For better management of revenue collection a branch of the Bank-e-Millie-Afghanistan has opened inside the Customer Service Center.
The CSC concept is a rather new one in municipalities in Afghanistan. Amiri envisages an ever-increasing role for the CSC as more and more services get computerized. “In five to 10 years, we expect to see a complete shift towards the e-governance system of municipal services. It is coming”, he notes.
When fully staffed, the CSC will have 50 percent female staff, a move designed to enable women to access municipal services in greater numbers.