Who cares about online state services?
E DII TO RII A L
Every time the Auditor General issues a report, usually damning the inefficiencies of the government machine, the targeted department or even government Minister goes on the defensive, lambasting the watchdog’s scrutinising methods and picking on details about letters and procedures, ignoring, of course, the essence of the complaint.
After all, the Auditor General’s mandate is to thoroughly review these procedures in order to help improve them and boost the rate of productivity in the public sector, something that all Presidents have pledged to support. But of late, such matters seem to be falling on deaf eras, with the nation’s chief executive avoiding direct action for fear of upsetting his own cabinet members, despite the (in)actions of senior public officials, whose incompetence places the Minister in an awkward spot.
One such matter, despite the pre-election rhetoric to safeguard matters of education, is the unnecessary delay in the payment of annual state grants to university students. This is a payout that is much needed, especially for families who have fallen on hard time.
Despite the applications having closed a long while back, the Ministry inspectors are still reviewing the applications submitted in March. Earlier submissions have been reviewed and paid out, while later applications will probably see grants paid out beyond September or October, by which time university students will have already enrolled in the new academic year and initial payments for tuition fees or accommodation and other expenses will already have expired.
The (poor) excuses given include the overload of application reviews, while passing on part of the blame to the banks for not responding promptly to required data on assets and households incomes, in order to justify the level of grants.
And this at a time when the Commissioner for Public Sector Reform keeps on issuing declaration after declaration that one or another service has been automated or is now available online.
Despite improving the infrastructure, the problem is clearly the attitudes of pen pushers, both in the public domain and in the private sector.
It’s no use talking about efficiencies, streamlining, automation and online services, when those in charge of data entry and review, over-the-counter services, as well as picking up the telephone, are still living in the Dark Ages.
Although we have often praised improvements in all aspects of the economy that can make Cyprus more efficient and return to a level of competitiveness, this apathetic approach can only be stopped if those in government or large corporate bosses tell their employees to pull their sock up and do some work.
Being afraid of union reaction or upsetting the hundreds of thousands of potential voters, just shows how keen those in power are prepared to enact change, if anything.