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Jodhpur Development Authority Demystifying the Black Box Called Office: Gaurav Agrawal

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Gaurav Agrawal, Commissioner, Jodhpur

Large government offices are like black boxes where it is difficult to trace status of a file or an application, says Gaurav Agrawal, Commissioner, Jodhpur Development Authority, who is on a mission to clear this black box and bring transparency to the system riding on the back of technology and innovation.

“At the heart of our efforts at the Jodhpur Development Authority is to change the power dynamics. For too long, in any citizen to government interaction the power has sided with the service provider, that is, the person who is delivering the services from inside the government. The common citizen has been at the receiving end of this dynamics,” adds Agrawal.

Speaking at the 9th Knowledge Exchange Goa, the Jodhpur Development Authority Commissioner outlined the salient features of the initiative “to change this dynamics by trying to empower the citizens”.

“We have not employed any fanciful technology for it. We have tried to do some things which are very basic. At the core of it, we have implemented a File Tracking System, or FTS, which is one stop short of e-Office.”

The difference between FTS and an e-Office, he says is that in an e-office system “everything is online but in file-tracking system everything is on paper. The metadata about the file and its movement gets captured electronically which allows monitoring”.

The Jodhpur Development Authority has brought all its office files to the FTS, which generates a report where it can be tracked that who in the office is holding how many files and for how long.

“It is a fantastic report for the head of an office because large government offices are like black boxes where it is difficult to trace status of a file or an application. To clear this black box and bring transparency to the system, first of all we implemented this file tracking system,” says Agrawal to underscore the relevance of the new system.

Till now, some 80,000 files have been entered into this system.

“What it does is to push the pending work out in the open, which creates sort of accountability and pressure. It also solves a special problem of urban bodies of ‘missing’ files, as whenever there is a sensitive matter, a lot of files tend to go missing,” he quips.

The next thing the Jodhpur Development Authority did was that after running the FTS in-house, it threw it open for the general public after two months.

“There is no login or password to see the live status of the files. Anybody who goes on our website and clicks on ‘Track All Files’ can see the report.”

However, while taking this initiative there were a lot of apprehensions that it would attract unwanted media attention but the Authority decided to go ahead with it keeping in mind that it would lead the officials to do their job with more accountability.

Rajasthan has a very good grievance redressal system called ‘Sampark’. So, what we’ll do is that we will put a link to the grievance redressal system in our file tracking system to allow citizens to file complaints if a corporation official delays action on their file or the file is allocated to a wrong official. This really empowers people,” Agrawal says.

The new system was designed in such a way that it found a lot of other applications.

“There are single windows opened in a lot of offices. These single windows are only in-principle single windows. Even in our office there was a single window where anybody could come and submit their application. But it was a single window just in the name because what happens to that application after submission at the single window is unknown to the applicant who has to come again and again to talk to 10 different people and departments or probably pay to a broker just to track its status,” Agrawal adds.

So, the Authority took a decision to map every single window application ID with the corresponding file tracking system ID. “What happens now is that every single time the file is opened or the application moves to a different official, an SMS is automatically generated and sent to the original applicant. Also, the applicant can open the website and track the single window application by entering the single window ID or the FTS number. This initiative has made the single system a truly window system.”

The File Tracking System also include online applications. Some of the applications which are being offered on the system have already been made online by the state government. “We are trying to develop online modules for those applications which have not been made online by the government. We’ll soon give common citizens an option for downloading either a digitally signed copy of services like name transfer, certified copy or No objection Certification, etc, or an option to receive the document through courier by paying a fee.”

The corporation is also in the process of creating an online system for contractors on the FTS. “As all our files are on the system, all we need to do is to simply create a separate category for contractors to ensure that payments of contractors are not delayed.” For this, the corporation has already identified 6 milestones to evaluate contract-related works.

The FTS created by the Jodhpur Development Authority is a step closer to empowering citizens by introducing the elements of transparency and efficiency into the existing system. It is set to pave the way for other large government offices to emulate the model and bring more power to common people in terms of availing government services.

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