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Bank seeks effective e-governance plan

Guwahati, July 4: The World Bank has asked the Assam government to chalk out a policy statement indicating its commitment towards improving services for citizens, especially e-services.

This has been mentioned in the report on Reducing Public Administration Constraints to Improve Service Delivery: Options and Recommendations to Support Reform Planning of the Government of Assam, which was made public recently.

World Bank country director, India, Onno Ruhl, who was in Guwahati recently, had indicated it was working with Assam on e-governance.

Dispur is engaged in a process of improving services to its citizens and focus on better services in line with the National e-Governance Plan.

“Assam plans to move forward with an ambitious programme of service delivery improvement using information technology and supported by public administration improvements. The programme is rooted in the National e-Governance Plan and in a number of Union and state laws. Commitment from the top political level, including the chief minister and the state cabinet could be beneficial for programme implementation. The various separate laws and other documents could be reviewed to provide a clear, succinct, easily understandable statement and commitment to improving services to citizens in a coherent and comprehensive manner,” the report said.

The bank said the statement could indicate the objectives, the specific results, focal point of responsibility for delivery (both political and administrative) and the process for monitoring and reporting to the public on the achievements of the policy.

The bank said for the services to be effective, commitment and leadership must be an ongoing process. “Without commitment, departments may move at their own pace or face interference from other departments. This is a risk in Assam, where the large number of departments that currently exist, makes it more challenging to achieve unified action. Further, the need to complete the legal framework and agree on common procedures across the administration, including a framework for effective for monitoring and reporting, requires top-level engagement,” it said.

The report said the Assam Right to Public Services Act, 2012, does not appear to specify a process or criteria for identifying or prioritising services for inclusion under Section 4 of the act. Section 4 merely notes that the government of Assam “may, from time to time notify services” to be included under the act.

“It has been confirmed that the process for identifying services to be notified is facing challenges and cannot necessarily ensure the services selected are the most important or most urgent for time-bound delivery. In addition to the services identified already for “time-bound” delivery and e-delivery, it could be important to have a process in place for identifying and prioritising services for notification on an ongoing basis,” it said.

The report stated officials had identified the absence of a comprehensive Information Communication Technology (ICT) plan as another constraint in timely delivery of services. It was noted there is currently no common framework for service delivery, including a strong and supporting ICT infrastructure.