Sunday, December 7, 2008

Passport Control - 2

Following on from this post, here is a list of my observations of the shortcomings in the passport collection system and suggestions to make it better. 

1. Tracking Information: The online tracking system should be working. Even in the absence of that, absolutely under no circumstances whatsoever should somebody be told to go and collect their passport before it is actually ready to be handed over to them. Immigration should also insist that everyone who is going to collect their passport either checks online (when they fix the system) or calls in beforehand to ascertain whether the passport is actually ready. That way, you avoid having people making the trip and contributing to the congestion and confusion in the banking hall unnecessarily. 

2. Crowd Control in Banking Hall: Sometimes, they have a guy posted at the main door, checking what people are going to do in the hall and turning away those that don't have receipts (this obviously tends to be around lunch-time when it becomes more important to reduce the rush). If you show this guy your receipt, he allows you in and points to Counter 13 as where you need to go. Unfortunately, Counter 13 has 3 workstations, which generate 3 queues. Only two of those stations deal with checking passport status. Immigration have provided no way whatsoever for somebody to know what queue is for what..except asking other people who are its pretty easy to queue in the enquiries line, then have to re-queue to check your status.

To further compound this problem, quite a large percentage of the time, the workstations are left unmanned. This means that you end up with a situation where one queue moves while the other stands still or both don't move or the first stands still while the second moves. 

I would suggest having two queues. One leading to the workstation on the extreme left of the three workstations at Counter 13 for General Enquiries and the other feeding to the other two workstations for passport status checking. The queues should be separated by these barrier things you find in banks and there should be signs above each workstation to inform customers where to go. (Ofcourse, if suggestions from point 1 above were in place, the 'check passport status queue could be done away with altogether). I would further suggest instituting a policy that workstations must be manned for at least 95% of the working day. 

3. Convoluted System: Why queue to Counter 13 to check status, then queue for Counter 14 to hand over your receipt, then wait? Why not queue to Counter 13, hand over your receipt and wait for your passport to be delivered at Counter 14? That eliminates one queue and cuts down on confusion about the place.

4. Staff: The staff are rude, sullen and surly BUT I don't know that I could fully blame them(frontline staff that is). They are operating within a system that may as well have been designed by a child. Such is its unsuitability to the purpose that it serves. When I was walking around complaining, quite often the staff response was "We are doing the very best we can....Look at how many people we have to serve". What they don't seem to understand or realize is that a large percentage of the people crowding the hall are only there because the system is so very poorly designed and so utterly inefficient. 

Mr. Karoki complained about going to get my passport personally BUT he only had to do so because the system that he oversees is totally useless so he ends up wasting time dealing with stupid minor things like going to collect one individuals passport instead of doing his job of ensuring efficiency. And that brings me to my main point...

5. Management: IMHO, these guys are either incompetent or indifferent. Either way, they should be sent packing. 

It is they who design the system, train and deploy the staff and are responsible for customer satisfaction. From my experiences at this place over many days, they completely fail on all counts. 

Like I said, the fact that the officer-in-charge was wasting time collecting my passport personally is a symptom of his failure to do his job. He should be ensuring that the system he runs fulfils its function so well that no silly little complaints/issues come his way and he can concentrate on his core function..oversight and ensuring service delivery. 

I also think that every PS and minister should be forced to have their applications dealt with in the same manner as your ordinary mwananchi because I am positive that would quickly see the system cleaned up, streamlined and made more efficient. Part of this problem is that it seems 'Wakubwa" actually have no idea of the rot that exists in these sorts of departments...simply because they don't actually ever experience the paralysing inefficiency that characterizes operations in these departments. 

None of the suggestions I had require that much monetary input. I mean, they have a huge screen TV in the hall..why not put it to some use; for example; to alert customers to proceed to Counter 14 to pick their passports? They could easily use the split screen function and have half the screen showing Citizen or whatever and the other scrolling the names of the ready for collection passports (rather than have some hoarse voiced fellow shouting names and nobody being able to hear what names he's shouting). 

As far as I could see passport control is by no means short staffed...they often have many staff members milling about or standing chatting with each is just horribly and criminally mismanaged. 

If GOK is serious about development and improving service delivery, these are the first things that have to be drastically improved. They must design systems that allow/force the staff to be totally efficient. They must design systems that make best use of the resources we have. 

That way, we don't waste time getting passports/licenses/logbooks etc and instead proceed with our productive activities to earn our living which we then pay taxes on, which they then use to build us to 'developed status'. 

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