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Quality feat

Print edition : Jul 27, 2007 T+T-
The Krishna District Collectorate in Machilipatnam.-PHOTOGRAPHS: VIJAYA BHASKAR

The Krishna District Collectorate in Machilipatnam.-PHOTOGRAPHS: VIJAYA BHASKAR

The Krishna District Collectorate in Andhra Pradesh bags a first in the country by getting the ISO 9001:2000 certification.

Achieving accountability in administration is a challenge in the era of modern governance. It is particularly so in the offices of District Collectors, Revenue Divisional Officers (RDOs) and Tehsildars, where citizens' interaction with the bureaucracy is considerable.

At a time when most government institutions shy away from setting high standards for themselves in day-to-day administration and prefer not to give any commitment to citizens about the quality of services, the Krishna District Collectorate at Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh has shown it is different. In June 2006, after months of hard work, it became the first Collectorate in the country to get ISO 9001:2000 certification for its Quality Management System. The certification is accorded by BSI Management Systems, the global group that employs rigorous standards for it.

"The achievement has had a very positive impact on the morale of the entire staff, and every employee is now proud of working in a quality-certified institution," says District Collector Navin Mittal, who led his team from the front in accomplishing the feat.

Proudly looking at two certificates displayed on the walls of his chamber in the 120-year-old Collectorate, Mittal says the achievement has placed an onerous responsibility on his office to improve "continually" its service delivery. "The conditions attached to the certification make it very clear that we have to continually improve our service-delivery mechanisms, which is different from continuous improvement. It means there has to be a staircase-like improvement, not just a straight-line improvement," he explains.

For instance, a special drive to dispose of pending files in the Collectorate and its subordinate offices has met with considerable success. In one year from June 2006, the number of pending files in the Collectorate and the offices of the RDOs and Tehsildars has come down from 5,000 to 1,500. Most of the pending files were on litigation, service matters and pension.

But what seems to be a more tangible benefit of the certification-oriented reforms is the opening of a grievance cell and an online petition monitoring system (PMS). The PMS is an extension of what is being implemented in the Chief Minister's Office in Hyderabad.

Of 1,526 petitions received since the introduction of the system, 1,101 have been disposed of. "We have decided to consider a representation or a petition completely disposed of only when it is done online," Mittal explains. He points out that the online system has significantly brought down the number of repeat petitioners, most of whom are applicants for houses or sites under government programmes such as INDIRAMMA (Integrated Novel Development in Rural Areas and Model Municipal Areas), or for pensions.

The Collector says PMS will be introduced in every government office in the district once the State government's broadband network - connecting every mandal - is ready. "We are also thinking of opening a call centre, which can take complaints from anywhere," he says.

A File Management System (FMS) for speedy action on files and for paperless offices was introduced in the A, B and C sections of offices on a trial basis. A file under FMS moves from a section assistant to the section superintendent, and from there to the District Revenue Officer and to the Joint Collector before reaching the Collector. The staff has been trained to handle FMS.

Also, for the continual improvement of services in the Collectorate, computerisation of administrative processes in all sections has been taken up with the help of Netsmart Technologies Private Limited. A beginning has been made with the C section, which deals with magisterial, and law and order matters.

A team of software professionals is working with the staff of the C section to computerise the processes followed in day-to-day administration. For example, one of the important works dealt with in the section relates to the monitoring of gun licences issued and the granting of new licences.

The module developed by the company enables the staff to know, at the click of a mouse, when a particular licence lapses and how many persons continue to hold guns even after the expiry of licence. For new applications, the process from beginning to end has been computerised to know the status at any juncture without any hassle.

The same kind of computerisation will be taken up in other sections such as establishment, budget/accounts; land revenue and calamity relief; land administration and land related matters; land acquisition; elections; protocol; and other miscellaneous matters. "We hope to complete everything in the next three months," Mittal says. Thus, by equipping them with the required capabilities for service delivery, the consultant engaged by the Collectorate has prepared all the four RDO and 50 Tehsildar offices in the district for ISO certification.