Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Book of Efficiency, Chapter One - Part Two

Part Two of this post discusses the issues that deal with implementing such a system in Ghana.

These issues I believe are best covered under definite topics (Policy and Implementation, Infrastructure and Human Resource, Uses) but you do need to forgive me if some of my topic areas and discussions overlap. Also I’m fighting a bout of Malaria (Round Two and no winner yet), so I was unable to get info on schemes implemented by our Government but I will update this post as and when I do.


I believe in all honesty that the greatest driver of GPC Visa’s success is the policy of the UK Government by pushing
General e-targets, that is, make as many processes as possible and feasible electronic
E-procurement, buy using electronic payment and purchasing systems
Efficiency, enact Prompt payment legislation.
The UK government therefore pushed out a broad agenda; Make these core areas in the operation of the Public Sector more efficient and thus better serve the people by making savings and eliminating waste.

Please name an economic policy that was promised and has been delivered. I can’t because the Government always uses vague expressions such as ‘Macro-Economic stability’ to talk to us instead of “the cedi will longer jump up or down so much but by little bits”. Yes! I remember The Public Sector Reform Ministry proposed an electronic punch card system and I also remember something about the Finance Ministry proposing some electronic accounting scheme for all departments. What have they done? I will update, websites anyone? Good Luck to ME!

Listen to your Boss:
The Treasury as the department mandated to oversee the economy, took up the issue and decided to find a way to implement these policies and help the other departments achieve their targets.

OK, His Excellency’s the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (I hope I got it right, they keep changing the names), you must lead the charge for better financial and economic efficiency among the other departments.

Test the Waters:
The Office of Government Commerce(which I assume is under the Treasury), started a pilot purchasing scheme around 1997, with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and a few other departments. Based on the success and lessons learned, they launched on a wider scale and targeted the whole Public Sector. In both occasions Visa Europe won the strict EU compliant tendering process to execute the contract. Most of the information I present comes from this second contract starting somewhere around 2003 and implemented by Government Departments and Agencies (GDAs) (OGCb.s), Visa Europe and a consortium of Seven (7) Visa issuing Banks.

Sell the Facts: and the National Audit Office (NAO) pushed out the facts about the success of implementing the GPC Visa scheme. Each year an Annual report about the Scheme and the total figures in terms of monetary savings and efficiency and other Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) are released on both OGCb.s and the Official UK GPC Visa website. These also help GDAs to compute their savings internally through standard values and figures. For example, a standard of £28 is approved by NAO as the savings per transaction.

Who is selling the facts about our policies to the people who need to use them? Have you been to a government site and read outdated information? I have, yet I’m sure the contract for the development and hosting of the site is honoured each month! As for answering an enquiry through the website, I won’t begrudge them, try most Ghanaian websites and the same results occur.

Please Don’t reinvent the Wheel!

This is one of the most important aspects of the information drive which insures the success of GPC Visa year in and year out. Don’t make the mistakes others made, use the simple approach and borrow from Best Practice. Several documents exist for new GDAs to use as a standard Guide to implementing the Scheme. Example; Her Majesty’s Government Procurement Card Best Practice Guide 2005(everything must be at the behest of Her Majesty, don’t you just love that!). All the issuing banks also have their own Guides for following. If you miss the path, it just means you really want to miss it.

YES! It has already been done. Another government has spent money and time, so let’s ask them to provide us with this information. We ask for money so why not research data? I have seen a number of tenders for consultants for Information Parks and E-Governance Projects. I hope they don’t duplicate information that already exists free of charge. I concede that some aspects must be relevant to only Ghana, but a larger part might just be general to all such projects. I got more free info than I can digest; imagine if President Kuffuor asks Gordon Brown!

CHANGE: Acceptance not Resistance:
GDA’s and other public sector organization must hate change as much as we all do, but some change is inevitable. The Public Sector has therefore learned to accept the scheme and embrace it. They have with open minds found problems and solved them in ways they won’t have imagined if they were bent on resting. This change in all cases came from the top. In some cases it poured down and sometimes trickled down, but it still came down!

Change is the single hardest idea for most people to accept on a large scale. In Ghana it is the same, but change we must. I want each and every one of us to imagine ourselves paying for goods and services with a card. No way! Yet it exists in several places, restaurants, supermarkets yet we have all chosen to ignore it because we feel it is just not us or worse we assume it just won’t work! If you have a VISA® ATM card you can purchase goods and services with it in Ghana TODAY. Do I do as I say? I use Ghana Commercial Bank; we don’t have VISA®, pretty good excuse huh! We all have one! CHANGE!

Data and Information:
Data: information, often in the form of facts or figures obtained from experiments or surveys, used as a basis for making calculations or drawing conclusions

Information: the meaningful material derived from computer data by organizing it and interpreting it in a specific way

I simply want to show that information and data depend on each other. You acquire data, make it meaningful and you have information, the most powerful tool available in the world today.

The single scarcest resource in Ghana is information (which means data is also scarce). A system that would allow a visibility of data on the performance and use of resource by Government and Municipal Agencies would certainly improve efficiency and governance. Going electronic would allow an easy capture and storage of date for interpretation by experts into information. Most critics of going electronic cite security as their reason for being against it. Does security stop people from buying $100,000 dollar cars and houses? No, instead they get a security company to protect their assets. Connect the dots!

Sorry Guys! It seems this is turning into a Mini-Series. Too many Mexican Soap operas I guess. HMM! Actually I think it’s more Ghanaian, any movie with only one part around.

I will provide all the sources from whence came this knowledge at the end of the series.