On April 29, a new chapter was opened in the annals of public service in Osun State when the state government under the leadership of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola revolutionalised the service to bring about effectiveness and efficiency through Information Communication Technology (ICT).
For a very long time, civil service was based on bureaucracy, an indirect way of describing the administrative cumbersome process of getting things done in the conduct of government business.
The process or is it system, no doubt slows down administrative work but then the wheel of government works, slow as it is must be followed as it was bureaucratically designed.
The fact remains that Information Communication Technology (ICT) has limitless possibilities and nothing can be achieved without technology acting as the catalyst and driving force.
The state of Osun realised the fact that for things to be properly and swiftly done in the process of administration, ICT must be deployed for growth, progress and development.
This has made Osun, created 23 years ago to become the first in Nigeria to upgrade the civil serve from analog to digital system to aid administrative efficiency.
And so with pump, Aregbesola launched of State of Osun Civil Servant Smart Identity Card and biometric automation tagged ‘I am Alive.’
The smart card is a tripartite arrangement among the Osun Government, Charms Plc and First Bank Plc. Now comes the era of smart card! Aregbesola told the gathering that by the time all the over 33, 000 workforce and pensioners were issued the card; the regime of queuing for verification will be gone and gone forever.
This is one big relief that technology will bring to workers in the State of the Virtuous, particularly, the pensioners.
This is just one of the numerous benefits of the smart card introduction. There are many more, which are beneficial to workers and as well as government itself.
One, the smart card carries the data of every civil servant in the state, serves as credit card, debit card and staff identification.
And by extension, a staff can, therefore, draw 20 per cent of his or her monthly salary even before the payment of salary by government.
Two, the smart identity card is electronically personalised with biometric features to each of its users and can be used at the ATM machines specifically designed for that purpose.
This will apparently add immense value to the activities of workers as well as equally improve the capacity and cut the cost of administration by government.
Aregbesola said during the launch: “To be sure, it was through the application ICT to our tax administration and revenue collection that enabled us to increase our internally generated revenue by 100 per cent within the first few months of our administration.
“We have since intensified our effort to make ICT an inherent part of our public administrative system. The introduction of this new smart electronic identity card is another component of that overall effort.
“It will expectedly bring about many benefits to all of us; the individual civil servants and the government. It will be given to all workers across all Ministries, Departments and Agencies, including Local Government Council workers.”
Three, the card will help eliminate many sources of financial waste and leakages created to defraud government of funds as well as help create an accurate and reliable database for payroll administration and payment of salaries. Four, the card will not only erase the ghost worker syndrome but also eliminate the possibility of defrauding any worker of the payments due to him by any other person.
Again, through this smart card system, workers can get their monies paid directly to their accounts at the pressing of button instead of through any intermediary points.
Besides, workers leave bonuses are now tied to each worker’s birthday and paid to their accounts automatically on that day whether the date and day fall due on weekdays or weekend.
Not only this, the smart ID card will eradicate perennial identity mistakes normally witnessed before in the payment of monies due to the workers.
This is because the identity card is completely individualised and electronically personalised with the bio-data of every worker, including his or her blood group.
What this also means is that if a worker, carrying his smart ID card has health emergency like in an accident, the smart card will answer preliminary questions that the doctors need under that emergency.
For the pensioners, it removes the stress of queueing and going through multiple verifications to get paid and also blocks the means for cheating them out of their money.
Aregbesola put it this way, “by clearly identifying the living from the dead, this system ensures that ghost will no longer mingle with our workers or have access to our payroll in Osun.
“It keeps them where they belong in the grave. It stops the dead from coming to steal money from the living. It makes certain that only retirees who are ‘ALIVE’ receive payment. This affirms the sense in the project’s title, ‘I AM ALIVE.”
One most very interesting feature of the card is its linked to a credit or debit card, which gives the owner access to his or her salary account, which he or she uses to withdraw up to 20 per cent of the salary with or without money in the account.
Director of ICT, State of Osun, Mr. Bambo Bashorun, highlighted the timeliness of the introduction of the smart card into the civil service system.
He said the smart card came at a time the nation is facing serious security challenges and dwindling resources.
According to him, “the issuance of the card will guarantee proper accountability and plug holes through which resources are wasted.
“Creating a database of all civil servants in the state is so important especially at this time of our challenging national life from increased level of insecurity to dwindling resources.
“With the data base created, the ID card issued and I AM ALIVE process automated, the state had ensured that no single kobo is wrongly allocated to undeserved person in the state,” Bashorun said.
Speaking on the innovation, the Group Managing Director of Charms, which is a partner in the tripartite arrangement, Mr. Ademola Aladekomo, said the state of Osun has set another record in the ICT in Nigeria and urged other states to follow suit.
Aladekomo said the smart card will go round all civil servants in the state, saying this card has changed the face of civil service system from analog to digital, which will save a lot of time, guarantee efficiency, effectiveness in the conduct of government’s business. According to him, “the smart card can be used not only in Osun but also within Nigeria and anywhere in the world.
“The card also carries the fingerprint of every cardholder with which he can identify him or herself.”