FEATURE: Enhancing The Face Of Governance

coat of armsGovernments across the states of the federation are increasingly enhancing public sector service delivery through the use of technology, writes Shola Oyeyipo

That some governors are spending so much on residents’ identification scheme, being a major prerequisite for e-governance is understandable. This is because a well-coordinated identity management process would ensure availability of accurate data for short, medium and long term planning in the private and public sector of the economy.

And if properly applied, especially in the area of information and communications technology, identity management is expected to usher in radical transformation in sectors such as education, healthcare and agriculture, and it would be expected to result in evident leap in internal revenue generation, cost-savings and fraud reduction, especially in some states that have been battling the problem of over-bloated civil service.

Presently, three states – Lagos, Anambra, and Osun – are prominent among others that are investing in residents’ identification projects initiated to enhance economic planning through the use of accurate population data in the formulation and implementation of public service policies.

Some of the advantages of the process include improved service delivery in the areas of health, education, security, welfare and transportation, among others. By bringing undocumented residents out of the shadows, government is better positioned to plan on how best to allocate resources to meet the needs of the people.

Other benefits of the smart identity card include reduced turnaround time on salary processing, prepaid payment for financial transactions, ability of holders to draw 20 per cent of monthly salary in lieu of payment, automated biometric verification of staff and retirees’ as against manual verification usually accompanied by long queues, and the storage of health data required during medical emergencies, among other functions.

The Anambra and Osun schemes are being executed by Chams Plc to assist the governments of the two states provide better public services at less cost to residents across rural and urban areas of their states.

While the Anambra project is at infrastructure building phase, Osun State has commenced deployment and issuance of smart identity cards embedded with MasterCard prepaid capabilities to civil servants and retirees in the state. Issued to enhance salary and pension payments, the Osun smart identity card provides reliable identification and authentication of 33,000 civil servants and retirees in the state. It eliminates the manual verification usually accompanied by long queues, replacing it with verification by flashing card on the access control machines or kiosk anywhere within the state secretariat.

Launching the smart identity card and the automated pensioner verification exercise tagged: ‘I am alive’, Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State said it was beneficial to government, workers and retirees’ in the state. He expressed the optimism that the initiative would help to eliminate sources of financial waste and leakage being used by some people deprive government of its money, while also helping to block the possibility of defrauding workers and retirees’ of payments due to them.

“It was through the application of Information and Communication Technology (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.

“The smart identity card is electronic and personalised with biometric features to each of its users. It will add immense values to the functioning of workers and will equally improve the capacity and cost of administration by government,” Aregbesola disclosed.

Director of Information and Communications Technology, Osun State, Mr. Bambo Bashorun said the introduction of smart identity cards by the state was timely because it was being executed at a time the nation was facing serious security challenges as well as the dwindling resources.

“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 identity 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.”

Demola Aladekomo, Group Managing Director, Chams Plc said the launch of a smart identity card by the Osun State Government was another milestone in the information and communications technology ecosystem in Nigeria.

He said the smart identity card was multifunctional and more than an identity card because it has e-payment capabilities and
can be used as debit or credit card by holders across the country, and anywhere in the world.

“The utilisation of information and communication technology to improve service delivery in the public sector in Nigeria will make governance inclusive – bringing it closer to the people. Inclusive governance and the use of technology to reduce the high incidence of fraud and wastage often associated with the public sector will further catalyse the growth and development of our national economy.

“Globally, governments are investing in meeting the identity management needs at city, state and regional levels because it provides exceptional opportunity to cut capital and recurrent administrative costs, while also protecting vulnerable citizens such as retirees by making it difficult for dishonest persons to steal their benefits.”

He added: “It is a welcome development that Osun is at the forefront of heralding access to improved public services through information and communication technology.”

On his part, veteran journalist and columnist, Tunde Fagbenle, who is an indigene of Osun, said “It doesn’t take much stretch of the imagination to appreciate the overall value and cost advantage of the smart ID both in saved man-hours, personnel management efficiency, and probity.

“Wasn’t it but yesterday the country was awash with scandal upon scandal of billions of naira of pensions money embezzled, not to talk of the ordeal pensioners continually suffer in the process of getting paid their paltry dues monthly?”

Fagbenle thought it an exciting time to be alive in Osun State, and as such, rejoiced that pensioners in the state would no longer suffer and wallow in abject poverty on a daily basis.

“The plights of Nigerian pensioners have been a thing of concern for many years now. The picture of haggard-looking pensioners collapsing on queues for their meager pensions during verification exercises is no longer new. But it may be a thing of the past in Osun State with the deployment of the beneficial technology by the state government,” he added.

With the adoption of residents’ identification programmes by Anambra and Osun States, it no doubt will enhance the ability of the state governments to make short, medium and long term plans for the benefit of their people.

Upon completion, these state governments will no longer depend on sketchy data in their bid to formulate and implement policies, projects and programmes because the number of people to cater for across all sectors – rural and urban areas – are known.

What more, the programmes will also ensure appropriate allocation of resources to various sectors of the economy in a manner that meets the real needs of residents of the concerned state.

“For instance, using data from its residents’ identification project, a state government will be able to classify neighbourhoods based on their population thereby making adequate provision for public utilities in each neighbourhood based on the number of residents,” Fagbenle disclosed.