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NTSA digital system bearing fruit

OPINION
By Francis Meja | September 29th 2016

Efforts started in April 2014 to digitise Government payments are bearing results. The process, which started with a directive that all payments to Government be digitised, would later be concretised with the formation of a Task Force for Government Digital Payment (GDP).

The Task Force was handed a wide mandate that included consulting with all relevant stakeholders including all Government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) which receive payments; cataloguing all Government payment receipts; reviewing and where necessary, proposing updates to legal frameworks; developing functional requirements for the Government Payment Gateway, engaging partners to establish the Government Payment Gateway and finally, undertaking pre-roll-out planning and a pilot roll-out.

With support from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Task Force embarked on implementing a pilot portal as proof of concept to demonstrate the anticipated end-to-end processing of digital payments and service provision within the Government of Kenya and hence the establishment of the www.ecitizen.go.ke portal.

Perhaps the biggest departure of the system is the establishment of a single sign-in process that registers users of the portal and authenticates them using the National ID Database.

As a complement, the users are validated through e-mail to registered e-mail addresses and SMS, where a code is sent to the user for entry into the portal for authentication of the phone number provided. The single sign-in system ensures that one cannot create an account with an already registered ID number, Mobile phone number or e-mail address.

NTSA was designated one of the agencies for piloting the GDP programme. The pilot started in July 2014 with three services: application and payment for Provisional Driving License, Test Booking and issuance of Driving License once the applicant passes the test. Such has been the high level of adoption that currently, 99.9 per cent of NTSA services are online.

The e-Citizen portal enables citizens to make payments through mobile money, internet banking, debit and credit cards. Before digitisation, most payments into Government were in form of cash, thus inconveniencing citizens who had to make payments only at designated payment points and times.

Huge revenue leakages resulting from the cash-based system through printing of fake receipt books and other forms of fraud were observed. The taking out of human interface in the payment system has greatly contributed to removing layers of bureaucracy, besides eliminating corruption.

Poor ICT systems with no linkage between payment and service delivery, was the other major challenge. The digitisation system helps clients in saving on time as initially, candidates for driving licences would queue and waste a lot of time at the Kenya Revenue Authority or NTSA offices to pay for a Provisional Driving Licence, make a test booking or pay for an interim licence. The same applicant would have to wait for a minimum of six months for the driving licence to be posted to them.

Currently, they pay for and obtain the provisional license online through the e-Citizen portal, book the test online at their convenience and on passing the test, leave the test centre with a driving licence.
Renewal of driving licences previously meant queuing at National Bank of Kenya or at the Post Office. Today, it takes a citizen less than five minutes to renew a driver’s license.

The dispatch of new drivers’ licences was bedevilled by numerous challenges such as lost documents or inability to reach owners due to the limited postal infrastructure. To date, there has been a major increase in the accuracy of data held by the Authority as well as a marked reduction in administrative costs.

The uptake of the service since launch has been quite encouraging and consistent. Currently, the number of citizens registered with NTSA is over 2,489,941, with an average of 9,600 transactions per day.

This translates into material cost-cutting on accountable documents (Renewal slips, PDL, Test booking); elimination of parallel accountable documents and fraud; reduction in time taken to process applications as the service is available on 24/7 basis to the clients as well as helping in revenue tracking from payment to settlement of account. The authority has witnessed a steady progress in cash flow from inception of the piloting to the present.

Even then, the roll-out has not been devoid of challenges. The authority has been faced by lack of funds to carry out change management, sensitisation and capacity building among the relevant stakeholders to ensure that they are aware of the e-Citizen service delivery channel, its mechanics and advantages.

The other challenge has been the lack of adequate enforcement gadgets to validate documentation and help counter any fake documents out there.

Finally, the implementation of digital payments for government services has helped in the Government’s goal of attaining a cashless economy with the aim of reducing costs; improving service delivery to citizens; increasing efficiency in revenue collection; improving the accounting and audit procedures to ensure a proper tracking of the cash flow, hence combating corruption.

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