Several calls have been made for reform of service delivery at the Registrar General Department. This is in line with government’s intention to create a business friendly environment, and to promote ease and convenience in setting up businesses.
After a recent visit to the department, I can adequately say that a lot ought to change to see this come to reality.
I happened to visit the RGD recently in response to calls for all registered companies to update records and renew entity registrations or incur a penalty charge after a deadline of 30th April. Congestion at the premises was to be expected and the least said about the packed crowds, the better. My concern rather, was the mode with which clients were served during the period.
Aside from the sale of forms at the entrance, additional provision was not made at service delivery points to accommodate the huge numbers. There were no additional officials on the ground attending to the numerous people who had thronged the department in response to the call. Did officials not envisage the congestion, or was it a mere lack of concern for the plight of clients because we had responded to the call at the very last minute? Your guess is as good as mine.
The experience was physically and mentally draining, and I wouldn’t wish it on any business person in this 21st century. Irrespective of the massive crowds, we still had to move from one window to another sometimes overstepping on the heels of others, and striving to catch your breath just to get officials to attend to you. Service was supposedly offered on a first come first served basis, but that was only the impression given to some of us who did not have any contacts or persons to assist.
The department usually works with laid down processes in the normal course of service but exceptions ought to be made when such deadlines are set and it is expected that numbers to serve would be much more than on a usual working day.
The most dreaded stage was waiting to pay for the renewal at a bank branch on the premises! The queue stretched from one end of the building to the other and I was told it had been like that for the past week or so. The length of the queue was not as scary as the slower than a tortoise pace at which it moved. We stood on our feet for up to 5 hours only to be informed that we can now make payment at another branch. I quickly went to the named branch and started the waiting process again, hoping it ends soon. Then we were informed that we could actually make payment at all branches of the bank since branches were networked. What a shock!
The entire day was used up, with valuable man hours gone down the drain. Time was about 4.30pm, and it was also unlikely that other branches will still be opened for business by the time one gets there. Why wasn’t this arrangement made and information provided earlier, to ease congestion and offer some convenience to clients?
The department is nowhere close to offering convenient service to clients. Convenience is about providing alternative to clients; an alternative in this case could be setting up an online portal where clients can submit data for renewals and additionally make payments. Mobile money platforms can easily be used for such purposes.
At worse in the absence of e-platforms, provision should be made for extra hands to manage the overflow during such periods. Temporary workforce can be trained for such purposes.
The canker of “time wasting” cuts across most service points in public agencies. I wonder if the officials get satisfaction in seeing crowds of disgruntled people waiting to be served. If truly we are looking to be touted as a business friendly nation and attract investments in essential services, basics such as business registration and renewals require complete overhaul and should never be compromised on.