Saturday, 18 May, 2024

Home Ministry’s Reform Plan Geared Towards Paradigm Shift

Home Ministry’s Reform Plan Geared Towards Paradigm Shift

Mukti Rijal

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) has formulated the home administration reform work plan 2078, and made it public this week expressing commitment to execute the defined priority actions with all earnestness and determination. With his competent higher echelon team of civil servants seated beside him at the ministry's meeting hall, Home Minister Balkrishna Khand shared the salience of the work plan which, according to him, constitutes one of the major steps forward in the process of strengthening the organisational capacity and enhancing the quality of multifaceted and diverse services delivered on behalf of the interior ministry to citizens in the country.

He acknowledged the drive, dedication and determination of the MoHA team, including the secretary and the joint secretary looking after the policy planning, monitoring and evaluation division of the ministry who took the lead in the preparation of the plan. Joint secretary Dr. Bhisma Kumar Bhusal, as reported, had coordinated the efforts, facilitated consultation with stakeholders concerned and experts and authored the plan, among others, that places emphasis on the use of information, communication technology for integrated information management and digitisation of the services delivered by the state.

Pertinent inputs
The minister who looked very confident with his firm and clear grasp of the issues impinging upon the ministry also acknowledged the pertinent inputs provided by the Policy Research Institute (PRI) -- the think tank organisation of the government -- which has been mandated to work together with public institutions and agencies, academic and non-state entities in the making of evidence-based public policies.

Needless to repeat, PRI has conducted the citizen satisfaction assessment on the services delivered by the district administration offices (DAOs) and district police office (DPOs) that avail and provide core state services to the citizens across the country and generated relevant suggestions based on empirical data in improving the quality, standards and effectiveness of the service delivery. The study was conducted to correspond with the communication of the MoHA received by PRI through the office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers (OPMCM). As acknowledged and pronounced clearly in the event, some of the PRI generated suggestions especially related with DAO and DPO services have been useful in the making of the work plan.

A careful perusal of the work plan shows that its major thrusts have been modernisation and transformation of the core state services and security management through introduction of digital governance and strengthening information management system. Moreover, particular attention has been paid to responsive citizen centric service delivery so that state reaches out to the ordinary populace to secure their trust, confidence and ownership.
Needless to say, unlike physical offices as they are in existence and operate, digital ones can be kept open to the public almost for 24 hours and continue delivering services uninterruptedly during emergencies, pandemics and other crises. Digital interactions are indeed less time consuming for people and help reduce the administrative burden borne by the state agencies. Moreover, automating case handling significantly boosts productivity, reduces backlogs and frees up resources for other priorities and actions. In fact, staffs and employees involved in the process also stand to benefit from digitisation. It is a fact that fewer repetitive tasks coupled with happier and satisfied service recipients pave the way to higher levels of job satisfaction and maximised efficiency for civil servants.

The work plan looks well-conceived, professionally crafted and logically ordered and, if implemented effectively, suited to meet and respond to the emerging challenges of internal security, service delivery and governance and management. The work plan is split into 10 major clusters followed by 206 major activities specifically directed towards institutionalised functional management and effective citizen-centric service delivery system in the country. Major strategic objectives of the plan include updating the existing laws, policies, rules and regulations, strengthening organisation and management system, enhancing capabilities of the administrative and security agencies, making service delivery system efficient and effective, strengthening peace, security and governance and so on. The work plan commits to amend over 50 Acts, rules and regulations with a view to updating them to reflect the contextual realities and respond to the evolving needs of the country.

Service delivery
The work plan is also in line with federal structures of the country as the federal, provincial and local governments have been entrusted with constitutional mandates and competencies some of the critical ones have to be administered, coordinated and managed under the purview of the HoHA. The plan espouses to devolve core civic service delivery such as awarding citizenship identity further down to the ward level considering that this would enable the citizens to access this vital service at their neighbourhood. Though the devolution of authority in regard to citizenship identity at the ward level is feared to be misused or improperly carried out, a foolproof integrated information management system would help to supervise and verify the instances of the abuse of authority whatever and ensure their rectitude.

Very important and timely provisions enshrined in the action plan from the side of the citizens and service users include e-filing of the vital registration at the ward level, automated biometric identification system, real time-based visa application, and integrated national identification document and so on. Such actions of far-reaching important and consequences will contribute to transform and make a paradigmatic shift in the service delivery and governance system in the country. However, the MoHA alone cannot implement these important actions. These need coordinated support, resources and cooperation from all stakeholders, including citizens.

(The author is presently associated with Policy Research Institute (PRI) as a senior research fellow.