I’m from India and this blog post is more relevant to improvements that could be applied over the current processes of Indian government. The insights on improvements could be applicable to some other countries as well. But as I live, run between government institutions, pay taxes and affected by good and bad of Indian government, I could be more confident that the facts I think could improve the national governance are more applicable to India.
You can clearly differentiate a government institution from private one. For e.g. any office of BSNL or LIC can be easily differentiated from the similar private players. In the government offices people are more sluggish, working with systems which are at least some years or decade behind the private players, the office room with lighting which keeps office in mild darkness always, everywhere cupboards full of paper bundles and dust and, over sized offices which could at least occupy more than the double the size of current employee count. I think its common across all states and cities.
I have seen an employee in government insurance office in a main city chewing pan being seated and seeing thru the documents, and employees sitting together and chit chatting. For everything you should go inquire, write a letter with sign, submit it to the officer and come back.
Obviously any government institution is far behind the private players of same business in terms of infrastructure and service to customers but not at all in job security to its employees. Here I want to talk not only about government institutions but the governance in overall. We stand and vote for an MLA during every state elections which happens every 5 years, but without knowing what are the selected MLA’s performs and his/her outcomes in the years during their tenure. We do not know what are his daily schedules like from what time to what time they work. We know a major group of MLA can select a Chief Minister, may attend the legislative assembly discussion which are scheduled may be twice a year. But we don’t to what is his working time and what is his outcome for each year or at least in the 5 year term.
The fact could be applied to Chief Minister as well. Being a selected MLA, MP, Chief Minister or Prime Minister could mean that they can be considered as a government employee who performs some role in the governance. We do not know what happens to all taxes deducted from the salaries of all the salaried persons and in everybody’s business transactions.
If a village/town/city of a state is suffering from critical issues, then the people could not find any way that could quickly address the issue. You should write a letter explaining the issue in detail and hand over it with signatures to the concerned IAS officer or MLA. You cannot be sure about what happens to the letter and whether it was read. The most common way for the people of an area or village to showcase their suffering is block the roads to get the issue noticed to government officials or politicians. Such incidents road blocks or any forms of strikes of group of people for establishing their suffering gets attention of police or relevant officials only to have them disbursed and they may not be resolved. If someone dies because of the same suffering then government or CM would pay the family an amount for condolence, the amount which could have totally resolved the issue right away.
Quarterly/half yearly results:
We require certain level of transparency in total revenue for government from different sources like taxes and the schemes or end points where they spend every penny. Why not government, every individual department report schemes that were been implemented in every quarter and future plans for next quarter and years. Why not government’s every individual departs of Center and States report quarterly or half yearly results? As the companies which are running by money from shared holders with IPO in stock exchanges, a government department could be looked to hold the same kind of transparency and effectiveness as it is running on public’s money.
Such system and mandate to deliver report could keep the department top level employees (PM/CM/Ministers/MLA and officials) to be planned and their performances and plans could be debated and this would keep them on their toes that would eventually bring all lower end employees of the department also be in focus and delivering.
The plans for next quarter, the existing issues could be prioritized and set to be resolved and taken as goal to be resolved within another quarter.
Outsourcing employee performance assessment, IT jobs and public feedback collection:
We need a system in place to measure every employee for every place. When we start revolutionizing the government systems, the initial step would be to find out people who are not punctual in their deliverables and involve in malpractices, and weed them out of the institutions. We can involve private companies by outsourcing them for every employee’s performance assessment. This could include implementing swipe in and swipe out system that is used to monitor the hours of works for every employee. Such monitoring and assessments could be done for every employee including Ministers, MLA and every governed servant from different departments.
As India is known for IT outsources, the government could involve them for implementing current technologies in the processes, which could speed up and improve processes. Every process in a department could be questioned and debated and bring in if any replacement that could have reduced time for completion by bringing in resolved current technologies. The flow and steps involved in each processes could be analyzed to see if they needs a better replacement which could deliver better or quicker solutions to people. From small government office/shop to huge institutions needs to monitor initially to assess how many people the institution is serving and quality of the service.
Involving IT companies in government projects is already been happening in India. But if they are involved in processes improvement, employees’ performance assessment, public feedback analysis and innovative solutions suggestion and implementation, that could make huge significance in government processes and systems.
Education eligibility criteria for ministers:
A ministry has huge number of graduates, specialists and people who have passed different competitive exams working. From IAS to clerks have educational qualification. The ministers who control the whole system, makes decisions should have certain qualifications defined.
For a developing country like India, setting such restriction could not be possible when the constitution was framed as the number of people joining even primary school by that time was very few. But such restriction seems to be need of the hour. We need not care about MLA. We need to think of to whom any ministry is handed over. The union or state finance ministers should be economist, statistician and a person who is innovator in these fields. Similarly defense, agriculture, transport, IT or any ministry should have restriction on eligibility for who can be placed as the minister. A minister who has expertise and interest in the field to the level that he/she can bring in and accept innovative solutions could make lot of difference to ministry and eventually in lives of the people.
As the ministers are supposed to be educated experts, the chief or prime minister should have some criteria defined like he holds multiple degrees and good knowledge in all ministries.
A politician who stands in MLA election could have restricted to undergo a quick framed training on constitutions and etiquette. Similarly every post can ask for the election candidate to fulfill a quick course or exam conducted by government as the minimum qualification. As the number of graduates who vote increases, the candidates who are experts or thoughtful or have minimum qualifications are more likely to be selected.
Obviously, I could agree to a point that the ministers, chief or prime minter should be a one who knows what poverty is, how low income or middle class people suffer to make their months ends meet. That is good of the country which has really lot of them.
Ticketing Processes and Customer (Citizen) Care:
A private company should be keen on timelines and evolve to bring in efficiency to be successful. Each and every minor to major projects of government needs to be documented with timelines, resource info, tracked and follow-uped. Even small companies have ticketing system and software which tracks status for projects or developments with information on deadline for each activities, number of people working on it and facility to escalate if any problem arises. Basically all independent government entity should work like such private company. The government entities should invest in bringing in the digital or software solutions the companies uses such as CRM (customer relationship management), ERP (enterprise resource planning. It should First of all give ID cards and mail IDs to all of government employees. It could track their attendance thru swipe in and swipe out in the offices. To an extent, very tight job security makes the employees very lazy, half-witted and careless about servicing to people who pay for their salary in terms of taxes or charges.
As of I know, a government entity or office or ministry could never be able to implement such digital solution which are being used in the private companies with even 1000 employees. Imagine if a government entity is privatized and government act as single shareholder of the privatized entity. The board of directors of the private entity could include related minister and experts. I strongly believed that such privatized entity could perform or service better than being a government entity. The problem in democracy is any party would not do anything that affects their votes. Any party would fear about giving bitter tablets to suffering people, rather they would keep giving them junk food that would get them more votes. Processing a governed entity would trigger strong uproar from employees, unions and families. But if a government could do this that would eventually bring in better services and efficient processes in the entity. Privatization would also stop/reduce corruption. The privatization would only be unfair to the government employees.
If a citizen goes to some government office for a request or complaint, the request or complain should be registered as a ticket, which could be tracked online or phone till its completion. Every action should require timeline and status. If a request or part of it is completed on a given timeline, it should be escalated to higher authorities automatically. Every improvement or decline need to be intimated to the requester by mobile or email.
From laying off road to implementation to multi crore projects need to tracked for updates and its quality and timely delivery.
Finally, as I have mentioned already, privatization of a government entity on which government has control as a single investor would make lot of changes in its process and delivery of services to people. Such privatized entity, with CEO, CFO and board members and managers could function exactly like a private company.
As best performing private companies could evolve, change lives of people by providing competitive solutions, why not such government entities be freed to let them function as a private entity?