Public Service Commission: Stepping into E-Governance


Abstract

Public Service Commission has glorious history of six and half decade long. From the beginning it has been adapting itself with its contemporary environment through various reform initiatives. Online application system is one of the breakthrough in its history in course of utilizing avenue made available by the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) development. This not only helped the commission initiate e-governance but also made the application process easier for the applicants. This article focuses on the e-governance initiatives taken to modernize the functions of the commission especially ie online application system.

Public Service Commission is a constitutional body provisioned in part 23, clause 242 in the constitution of Nepal (2072). It has been enshrined with independent functions, duties and powers. The main constitutional duty of the commission is to conduct examinations for the selection of suitable candidates to be appointed to the positions in the Civil Service. In addition to this it is also authorized in the constitution to conduct written examinations for the positions of Nepal Army, Nepal Police, Armed Police Force, Nepal, other Federal Governmental Services and corporate bodies having shares more than fifty percent (243). Thus it has vital role to play to conduct recruitment functions to enable itself to recommend competent candidates to the government and other public bodies. It operates its duties and responsibilities under a separate Public Service Commission Act, 2066 and Regulation 2067. It also has its own operation guidelines. These all legal provisions and norms set through practice have turned it a dignified organization. People believe it as a fair organization to rely on. However, this dignity is not the consequence of an effort of a day. For this to happen, the commission has undergone various reformative changes in its history. The latest initiative made by the commission is online application. This article is mostly focused in e-governance initiatives made by the commission.

The history of the Commission dates back to June 15, 1950 (Ashad 1, 2008 BS). The government after the successful democratic movement of 2007 BS established it as an independent constitutional body. The basic notion was to fill the bureaucracy with competitive candidates selected through merit system and to reform administration to cater the need of the changed political context. Since then, Public Service Commission (PSC) has witnessed several changes in its history. All subsequent constitutions have provisioned it as a constitutional body. It has been playing an important role in protecting and promoting merit system in Nepal. Similarly, it remains as a constitutional body consisting qualified and experienced members and competent staff members in it.

There are mainly two kinds of role to play by the commission. The first is to conduct examinations to recommend candidates for the government and other public bodies as provisioned in the constitution. And the second is consultation role to the concerned government bodies on the matters of principles to be followed in the course of making appointment and promotion to any positions of Nepal Army, Nepal Police, Armed Police Force, Nepal and other Federal government services. It is also provisioned to be consulted on the laws relating to the conditions of service of the employees in the service of a corporate body and on the general principle to be followed in the course of making promotion to any position of such services and taking any departmental action against any such employee. To perform the constitutional functions and duties it has a separate Public Service Commission Act, 2066 and regulation, 2067. It also contains its own operational guideline to streamline its business. In addition to this, several customs and practices have been developed and documented as per its experience gained in the past. These too are helpful in guiding the commission to perform its constitutional duties and functions effectively and efficiently.

Conducting examinations is one of the main function of the commission. By nature it’s a challenging job to select the best candidates out of the rest candidates. It needs a careful and sincere attention to follow merit based principles, norms and process set by the commission. It has been following internationally recognized merit based selection system. Due attention has been drawn to keep the commission abreast with the changing environment. For this, it conducts studies, surveys and workshops as deemed necessary and converts important public feedback and suggestions received into policy to make the commission as live and fair institution to rely on.

E-governance Initiatives

Adoption of new technologies is the demand of the day. An organization either adopt with new technology and deliver service accordingly or lose faith of the people. Generally, it is blamed that public institutions are not enough proactive to internalize new technologies in their organization. However, the commission has not been that much aloof with the new technologies available in the market to modernize its services. The commission has been using Duplo Machine for speeding up the printing work. Similarly, it has started the Optical Mark Reader (OMR) technology to expedite the result process. The latest initiative was to initiate an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Development Project with the assistance of Asian Development Bank (ADB) in 2013. The main aim was to improve Public Service Recruitment Management System (PSRMS). So far, the project has capacitated the central, regional and zonal offices in both hardware and software part. The commencement of online application system is one of the achievement of the project.

The commission has maintained its own website to web cast the latest activities. Similarly, it has a tradition to publish weekly bulletin that contains information regarding weekly activities regarding recruitment process. It also publishes a trimester progress review highlighting the activities performed in course of implementing annual program. It has an annual operational calendar of recruitment process that allows the interested candidates to prepare for the exam in advance. Attention also has been given to attract candidates towards government services. For this, it has initiated awareness programs in zonal and regional level. However, it has not been sufficient to provide easier access to the remote population.

The role of the Commission has ever been expanding since it established in June 15, 1950.  Every constitution has given due respect as a constitutional body independent to conduct examination process and recommend competent candidate for appointment to the government offices. General public considers it as the custodian of merit system and take it as an institution that they can fully depend. To reach this level, it has gone through various reform initiatives. One of the key reform initiative is the use of ICTs in its operation. The commission deals with the educated stakeholder. Therefore, there was always a rightful demand of concerned stakeholder to modernize the facilities using ICTs as they were aware of the potential of ICTs in public service delivery too. Therefore, they were exerting immense moral pressure over the commission to choose one option either to provision the facilities or turn itself as outdated traditional institutions and lose confidence of the people.

With the inspiration of making the working style ICT based and the work itself dissent, commission decided to launch online application as a test case. At first, the service was made applicable to a few services only. In fact, it was a matter of risk taking as it was web based and there were no enough manual backup system if it fails. It was initiated with only the hope of correcting as and when problem appears. The test was mostly successful with some technical corrections during the process. It encouraged the commission to expand the services to other services too. The ultimate motive of the intervention was to modernize the commission and provide e-governance services to its clients. It was also expected that success would motivate the staffs and help enrich their job to make their job dignified and descent.

 In course of trial since last year, the system has much been improved. Similarly, the applicants are also being adopted with the new system. The user friendly software has made the application submission possible even from their smart phone or personal computer. The beauty of the online application system is flexibility of time and place to both the client and employee. The submission is possible from anywhere and anytime within the stated date. Similarly, the scrutiny process can be done any time and from anywhere within the specified date. Thus it has allowed the responsible officer a flexibility of time and place. The online application service has dramatically avoided the un manageable crowed in front of the office that used to happen during vacancies. It has now saved time, cost and effort of both the service receiver as well as service provider. Only the precondition for this system is internet connection, which is mostly available in most of the district headquarters. However, there are some limitations to use the service in its optimum level. One prominent impediment is limited access to the internet service to all clients living specially in remote villages. Another is digital divide that limit the capacity and access to the internet facilities to potential candidates. These are the challenges need to be addressed in the days to come.

Impact of Online System

Online application is one of the major e-governance initiative which has produced a wider reactions among the applicants. The commission started online application since April, 2015 as trial basis as stated earlier. Now every vacancy has gone online except the applications for file promotion. This new intervention has generated two fold impression. One is from applicant side and other from employee side.

Impression from the applicant

It is too early to conduct an impact study of the online application system. But in general observation and from personal contact with the applicants, I came up with the following impressions:

  • Users mostly are new to the system, however they feel comfortable to use the new system.
  • Most of them do not have personal computer and internet access at their disposal and they have to use cyber cafe to fill up the application form. It costs in varied amount (up to Rs1000/- )
  • The form fill up process is not that much complicated and once it is created the same account can be reused again for next vacancies.
  • It is time and cost saving as it is not necessary to go physically to commission office.
  • Exam fees can be paid anywhere in the commission, no matter for which exam centers they want to apply. Non technical post applying candidates pay the exam fee also in district postal offices.
  • No queuing and and other kinds of paper based hassle that used to be common before the online system commenced.

Impression from the employee

  • Online application system has made per-examination and post-examination process automated.
  • Software has converted paper laden office work to almost paperless office environment.
  • Paper volume has been reduced dramatically by 80 percent.
  • As no application files need to store, office environment turned spacious, wider and cleaner.
  • Office staff feel more comfortable and motivated to use new software and technology.
  • The physical work volume of handling files has been reduced heavily.
  • Exam centre management made easier as the candidates have their every information regarding exam centre right at their hand in entrance card.

Avenue for further improvement

  • Make all vacancies online including file promotion.
  • Conduct online application literacy program for wider coverage and wider access.
  • Enhance coordination with the telecommunication and local bodies to expand internet access and facilities in local level.
  • Conduct talent hunt program in higher secondary level educational institutions.
  • Make arrangement to pay exam fee through banking system.
  • Capacitate Regional and Zonal offices with basic facilities including four wheel vehicles as the exam conduction is sensitive job.
  • Make available high speed data transfer internet and intranet system connecting to server with fiber optics.
  • Make the application process more user friendly.
  • Capacitate employees to use new technologies.
  • Increase storage capacity of the online system to get uploaded the basic documents.
  • Initiate computer based examination in some services as trial.

Last but not the least, the commission not only has its constitutional duties to conduct examinations to recommend candidates to the government and other public institutions but also to provide user friendly services to the people. It has to work efficiently utilizing available technologies and gain confidence of the stakeholders in the days to come. It has the foremost role to play in protecting and promoting merit system in all facets of governance. Due attention also has to be drawn to enhance the credibility so far achieved. For this to happen the commission has to continue its effort to modernize the organization and render latest technology in service to their stakeholder.

References

  • The Constitution of Nepal, The Law Book Management Committee, 2072
  • The 56th Annual Report of Public Service Commission, 2072
  • Personal interaction with applicants, 2073 Jestha
  • psc.gov.np

Written by: Shiva Kumar Karki, Lok Sewa Aayog, Mechi Zonal Office, Ilam

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