Challenges faced in public service delivery for census, tax, work permits, vehicle renewal, trade licenses due to the lockdown

While  most public service deliveries are made available online, some key agencies faced challenges during the lockdown to reach out their services to the public.

An official from Ministry of Home and Culture Affair said that during lockdown, they had issues in providing census and immigration service delivery as the physical presence of a person is required; otherwise, other online services are going well.

“To issue a work permit we need them in person for processing and this is a major challenge we have faced during the lockdown. For now, for those who have entered the country from Paro airport, they are issued with entering permit whereby once the lockdown is lifted they will be given work permit cards,” she added.

She also said that for a new born baby they carry out a field census registration every year towards the end, however, last year they couldn’t carry out the program due to the pandemic and they have deferred the registration of the census.

It was learnt that some of the parents have called them complaining about their child not getting registered in the census.

“We have introduced many online services mainly for security reasons. From the first lockdown, RCSC guided us on management during the lockdown. We also have developed our own internal guidelines for a lockdown,” she said. 

Sangay Phuntsho, Regional Director, Regional office of Economic Affairs, Thimphu said that the experience of the first lockdown has enabled them to improve the delivery of services whereby the ministry works closely with the local governments and the COVID taskforces to ensure that there are minimal disruptions and to work towards resolving any issues.

He said, “Frontline workers from our office are stationed in the office building and therefore, we have not faced much issue in the public service delivery. Being together, the coordination is much easier.”

For issues which require the Ministry’s direction, he said that the Ministry management committee constituted for the lockdown meets virtually every day to review the issues daily.

Penalty on late renewals of business licenses has been brought to the Ministry’s notice, he said, adding that they have decided not to impose any late penalties for license renewal during the lockdown period.

“We have notified public about this waiver. Nevertheless, as part of our continuity of operations, online services such as  issuance of new licenses, renewals or any other license related work such as for imports, trading and many more  required by businesses are being provided on a regular basis by  officials working either from office or  home,” he added.

He said that Dzongkhags have identified focal person in the respective Dzongkhags who coordinate with the regional offices to resolve issues.

Regional Director of Department of Revenue and Custom, Thimphu shared that they are trying their best to deliver the services and since tax filling started from 1 January, they are making sure that they are responding to every individuals queries related to tax through email.

He said, “Not only through emails but we also call them on their respective queries. This being tax season, every week we update on tax related queries and we keep track of everything.”

There are so many challenges while working from home, he said, adding that however, their first priority and concern is to deliver their tax payer services to the outmost. 

“If we fail give services during the lockdown, we will ensure to help them after the lockdown. I cannot comment on if we will delay the tax filing but we will consider delay in paying fines as everyone may not have access to internet for online services,” he said.

Assistant Transport Officer of RSTA Tashi Gyeltshen said that their services are related to vehicle and transportation for which there is not much impact on delivery of their services. He said, “Most of our services can be availed online. However, there are some hiccups as there are people who do not know how to do it online.”

He said, for those who do not know how to avail the services online and if their licenses or blue book expires during the lockdown, they consider that kind of a situation whereby RSTA have waved off their late penalties.

However, they encourage people to avail the services online at this point of time, he said.

They have not incorporated vehicle road worthiness test (vehicle fitness test) online because they have to physically verify the vehicle. Otherwise, if this is incorporated online then there is every chance that people might renew their vehicle fitness without considering the condition of the vehicle, he added.

During such times, he said, “Half of our staffs are on full COVID_19 duty and the only worry we have is a risk of getting exposed to the virus. Otherwise, there is no issue.”

Meanwhile, RSTA has pooled more than 100 government (BG) cars during the second lockdown to facilitate stranded people in Thimphu and all the transportation arrangement is done as per the directives from the central and national taskforces.

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One comment

  1. After going through two national lockdowns, one of the important lesson learned is that ONLINE public service delivery should be 100% efficient wherever feasible and necessary. It is true that such services may not be directly accessible to uneducated lot, but having the services in place will definitely help the public in getting the services even during lockdowns.
    For example, vehicle ownership transfer could not be possible during lockdown and even after relaxation in 18 Dzongkhags because RSTA requires NO LOAN certificate on the “vehicle” from CIB (Credit Information Bureau) which is in Thimphu and closed due to lockdown.
    Why can’t such services be made available online? A person can apply to the CIB website and the clearance can be delivered online to the person’s email.

    Such examples may be applicable to other public services too. IT services are such a huge advantage if made use of efficiently and intelligently.

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