NewsTech

Kickbacks hangover refuses to go away among civil servants

The vice inhibits interoperability among public institutions’ ICT systems as Tanzania's civil servants prefer meeting public service recipients face-to-face to tap into bribery gaps.

WEDNESDAY February 7, 2023

PHOTO | eGA

By Patty Magubira

The Tranquility News Reporter, Tanzania

Tanzania’s minister has lashed out at public institutions which are reluctant to embrace information and communication technology (ICT), threatening to enforce laws to coerce them.

The law establishing e-Government Agency (eGA) requires public institutions to comply with ICT systems the authority builds in a bid to improve services they deliver to the public.

However, since the e-Government Act No. 10 was enacted in 2019, many public institutions have been dragging their feet in accessing and using the online service delivery systems.

This is despite President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s directive to expedite interoperability of ICT systems of public institutions with a view of improving public service delivery and saving the taxpayers’ money.

The Minister of State in the President’s Office responsible for Public Service Management and Good Governance, Mr George Simbachawene, revealed in Arusha, Tanzania, on Tuesday February 6, 2024, that corruption was the root cause behind civil servants’ hesitancy to let their institutions comply with online systems.

Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan directed public institutions to expedite interoperability of their ICT systems to improve public service delivery and save the taxpayers’ money, but civil servants have been dilly-dallying since to tap into bribery gaps. PHOTO | DAILY NEWS

He challenged over 1,000 e-government players gathered in the city for their 4th e-Government Working Session to put on the shoes of the citizens who were facing challenges in accessing public services, often compelling them to line up in long snaky queues.

He said the bid to strengthen e-government was President Samia’s sincere desire to promote ICT usage in both the government’s functions and the provision of services for citizens to access public services easily, cheaply and from wherever they were.

“The 2025 National Development Vision, the Five-Year (2021-2026) National Development Plan and articles 102 and 103 of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi’s Election Manifesto (2025) all recognise the role of ICT in achieving national goals and emphasize its correct usage in implementing government’s activities and providing service to the public,” Mr Simbachawene said.

The 2016 National ICT Policy, in addition, highlights the need for the government to apply ICT correctly and productively to resolve operational hiccups among public institutions, control the government’s revenues, build and improve capacity and strengthen communication among e-government players.

Mr Simbachawene wondered how one civil servant’s failure to issue over 100 building permits stalled construction at over 100 sites and denied over 2,000 construction workers of employment.

The Minister of State in the President’s Office, Public Service Management and Good Governance, vows to enforce laws to coerce public institutions to embrace information and communication technologies in the delivery of their services. PHOTO | THE CITIZEN

While some civil servants delayed replacing faulty laptops, others jubilated when internet collapsed so that they could meet customers face to face and tap into corruption loopholes.

“We have heavily invested in building optic fibre and communication towers countrywide, yet services are not improving. This is not right,” the minister retorted

He wondered that it took a month for an entrepreneur residing at regional headquarters to receive a control number from Tausi Portal to pay for a license, permit, land plot, rental house or levy.

As a result, public funds unnecessarily remain in the hands of the entrepreneur simply because some people do not fulfill their duties, said the minister, vowing that his ministry would focus on the portal belonging to local authorities.

Mr Simbachewene admitted that Tanzania was ahead of many countries in sub-Saharan Africa in ICT application, but insisted that application of the gadgets should be realistic and reflect improved service delivery.

Mr Juma Mkomi, the Permanent Secretary in the President’s Office, Public Service Management and Good Governance, says public service providers frequently meeting the recipients, be it by design or accident, abounds with challenges. PHOTO | eGA

Automated customer care charters will go a long way in promoting accountability among civil servants for them to deliver services timely and at reasonable costs.

“From now on, it is no longer optional for public institutions to comply with ICT systems and they must update them daily to do away with kickbacks loopholes and eliminate the citizens’ complaints once and for all,” the minister said.

His ministry would collaborate with the Ministry of Information, Communication and ICT and the e-Government Agency in applying the carrot-and-stick approach by lawfully punishing hesitant institutions and rewarding enthusiastic ones.

Mr Juma Mkomi, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, commended the e-Government Agency for spearheading remarkable ICT reforms and improving day-to-day performance of public institutions conforming to the technologies.

Mr Mkomi said the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) officials represented in the working session were conversant with challenges arising from public service providers frequently meeting the recipients either by design or accident.

Engineer Benedict Ndomba, the Director General of the e-Government Agency, says109 institutions were connected to the Government’s Enterprise Service Bus. PHOTO | eGA

“Our emphasis is on improving the quality of service and adhering to the principles of good governance,” he said.

Engineer Benedict Ndomba, the Director General of the e-Government Agency said President Samia’s directive tallied with Section 48 of the e-Government Act No 10 of 2029.

The agency is, under the law, mandated to coordinate, oversee and promote e-government initiatives as well as enforce e-government-related policies, laws, regulations, standards and guidelines in public institutions.

“The e-GA has successfully built and launched the Government’s Enterprise Service Bus, enabling public institutions’ systems to exchange information,” Mr Ndomba said.

He explained that 109 institutions were connected to the Government’s Enterprise Service Bus and that 117 systems had so far been registered, including of PCCB, Director of Public Prosecution and the judiciary.

The agency has in collaboration with other institutions also built a single window system, enabling portals of public institutions involved in tax collection, including Tanzania Revenue Authority, Tanzania Ports Authority and Tanzania Bureau of Standards, to exchange informationΩ

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