Saturday, 2 March, 2024

Office-Middlemen Nexus

It is sad to note that beneficiaries seeking services at various public offices are still facing problems in the absence of an accountable and responsible bureaucracy. With an inefficient and corrupt service delivery system in place, service seekers are forced to bribe employees through middlemen in order to get their work done. The offices related to transport management, land revenue and customs are infamous for malpractice and bribery. According to a news report published in this daily the other day, service seekers have been getting fed up with unethical practices prevalent at the transport management office based in Ekantakuna of Lalitpur district. The office witnesses some 3,000 beneficiaries every working day as it issues and renews driving licenses and registers and renews vehicles. It also provides pollution test stickers to vehicle owners. The beneficiaries said that the quality of services provided by the office has not been up to the mark. Such a situation of this important public office is certainly a mockery of the government’s policy of zero tolerance on corruption.

In its bid to simplify the process of distribution of smart licenses, application of driving licenses and registration of vehicles, the Department of Transport Management (DoTM) has recently taken digital initiatives. Despite such efforts, services seekers have remained dissatisfied with the transport office’s service delivery and grievance handling system. As per the news, dozens of middlemen gather at the office premises before it opens to harass service seekers. Whenever the brokers see beneficiaries, they offer help for a fast-track and easy services. Since the middlemen are skilled at greasing the employees’ palm, the former can easily influence the latter. They are even involved in filling up the online forms for service seekers to attend license exams.

The middlemen take hefty money as service charge from beneficiaries who are often at high risk of getting swindled. Such agents have been there for years. A majority of them are women. Some of them are found sitting in front of the office in guise of vendors. They pledge to help the service seekers to get their work done in the office. The reason behind the growing presence of middlemen on the office premises is the inefficiency and dishonesty of the employees. The service seekers have realised that there was no possibility of taking service from the office without the support from the middlemen. So, instead of getting services directly from the office, the beneficiaries opt for the middlemen as it is problematic and time consuming.

Another problem faced by the service seekers is that they cannot get their smart licenses for long time. Many of them have been unable to receive the smart licenses for one and a half years after they passed the exams. It also takes months for the service seekers to get their smart licenses renewed or technical errors corrected. The office management must step up measures to keep the office middleman-free and make the employees accountable. It should also refurbish the infrastructure and service delivery system in order to take the beneficiaries into confidence. The office can regain its image only when it brings about noticeable changes in its working environment.