29 MAY 2002
By Miriam Dunn
The general perception is that government departments are inefficient, slow and bureaucratic. But according to the findings of a recent e-government services business survey, most of us are fairly satisfied with the services offered.
Asked whether this indicates that government services have improved, Management Efficiency Unit head Paul Mifsud Cremona answered that he believes standards have risen in many areas of public service. He also pointed out that it is the "bad experiences" which tend to make it to the newspapers.
"Lets not forget that when people reach the stage of taking action, they have usually had a bad experience," the Management Efficiency Unit chief said. "And it is right that they take up these cases, we want to know when things arent working. But we should also remember that we dont hear about all the instances when things are going smoothly."
Mr Mifsud Cremona also pointed out that as services improve, peoples expectations become higher.
"Efficiency itself creates a higher demand and this is positive," he said.
The MEU is the in-house consultancy group for government, whose mission is to facilitate the improvement of government services.
In the survey, which was carried out recently by MISCO International and KPMG, a total of 66.7% of participants said they were very satisfied with environment-related permits, including the PA, while just over three out of every four respondents (77.6%) said they were either very satisfied (1.2%) or satisfied (76.4%).
Asked to sum up government services in one word, 24% of the total sample said "satisfactory" and 15.2% said "bureaucratic". A total of 12.8% said "inefficient" while 11.6% said "efficient".
Mr Mifsud Cremona gave the example of licences.
"We started off by trying to remove the licences from the commissioner of police, but ended up doing a rationalisation of the whole licensing process across the board in terms of both government departments and other corporations and authorities," he explained. "This is the way it has to go, especially e-government which will require a detailed integration of the services."
Mr Mifsud Cremona explained that the objective is for the public to no longer have to go to different departments, rather they will be able to access a cluster of services they require.
"This system will join up services and integrate them, meaning there will be one access point for services offered across the board by different departments," he said.
He believes that the new licensing laws are a step in the right direction and bode well for a better way of doing business.
"Its a law thats simple to administer, simple for the businessman and takes into account other authorities, such as the PA, which lessens bureaucracy," he said. "I agree with the principle of shifting the responsibility for compliance to the user.
"The aim should be to create an environment where the user can comply as simply as possible. That is enforcement compliance. With licensing and regulations we should not be there to hamper or impose power, we are there to serve the people and create an environment where the economy thrives and people can operate. The new system has all the ingredients to make this happen."