By Wasantha Deshapriya, ICTA Programme Director - Re-engineering Government
The basic definition of eGovernment is the use of Information and Communication Technology for improving the efficiency of the Government and providing better services. The Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) has supported many Government organisations in implementing eGovernment projects aimed at achieving the above objectives. The eRevenue Licence project is one of the best examples such eGovernment projects.
It is mandatory by the law in any country that vehicles driven on roads pay a “Road-Tax” for using the roads. The objective of this law is to collect tax from vehicle owners for using the road and use this tax money to maintain the road network.
In Sri Lanka this requirement is referred to as the “Motor Vehicle Revenue Licence” and it has been stipulated by the Department of Motor Traffic Act and the responsibility of collecting this tax has been delegated to provincial councils.
As per statistics published by the Department of Motor Traffic (DMT) 4.8 mn vehicles are in use in Sri Lanka and the majority of them are registered in the Western Province. Accordingly there are 1,200,000 odd vehicles registered in the Western Province and these amount to 25% of the entire vehicle population. Therefore the Department of Motor Traffic of the Western Province (WP-DMT) has to issue motor vehicle revenue licences to 1,200,000 vehicles annually and collect taxes amounting approximately to Rs. 2.2 bn. Accordingly WP-DMT has to issue nearly 1,200,000 licences annually and 5,000 daily. By 2007 WP-DMT had taken many steps to make this process manageable for WP-DMT and convenient for vehicle owners.
- The authority of issuance of licence has been delegated to 40 Divisional Secretariats (DSs) in WP.
- WP-DMT has developed one Information Technology solution for WP-DMT and another for DSs for speeding up the licence issuance process.
- WP-DMT has set up a “Drive-In” system called “On the Wheels” which provides the convenience for vehicle owners to obtain the licence without getting down from the vehicle.
However even with the implementation of the above, WP-DMT and vehicle owners have been facing the following problems in issuing and obtaining the revenue licences:
- The licence could be obtained only from the registered DSs.
- The licence could be obtained only during the office hours.
- No help-line or help desk is available for information on obtaining licences.
In view of the fast-paced life style of the residents of the metropolitan area, the above problems can be considered critical.
Problems faced by WP-DMT
- Due to the disconnected nature of IT solutions used at WP-DMT and DSs up to 2009, the accounting functions have become a nightmare: the systems are unable to track the vehicles which are transferred from one DS to another DS or to another provincial council and provide a consolidated view. This has led to a build-up of a long list of debtors, because the vehicles transferred to outside the territory of any authority are still kept as registered vehicles in the same DS tagging the owner of those vehicles as debtors.
- WP-DMT is unable to verify whether the documents submitted by vehicle owners are authentic. Since there have been a considerable level of forgery and counterfeit certificates, this had become a serious problem. The insurance policy, vehicle emission test certificate, vehicle registration record and revenue licences have been found to be forged.
- No mechanism for assessing or forecasting the expected revenue, or obtaining snapshots with regard to the number of registered vehicles in the Western Province.
WP-DMT consulted ICTA in 2007 and planned to implement a new eGovernment solution for the issuance of Revenue Licence and named it the “eRevenue Licence project (eRL)”. ICTA, then signed a Memorandum of Understanding and agreed to provide financial and technical assistance to WP-DMT.
In 2009 the work on the eRL system was completed and it was officially a launched by Mr. Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary to the President.
The new system has the following new features:
- It is a centralised system running on the Lanka Government Cloud, Lanka Government Network and Lanka Gate which have been developed by ICTA.
- Vehicle owners in WP can go to any DS in the WP to obtain the licences.
- The authenticity of all supporting documents is verified online by connecting to nine insurance companies, two emission testing companies and DMT; hence no bogus documents can be submitted.
- The revenue licence can be obtained online which means the service is available on the basis of 24 hours x 7 days. In order to enable the acceptance of credit card payments for eRL the Public Finance Department issued the “Finance Regulation Circular 447”. ICTA connected an Internet Payment Gateway to Lanka Gate to enable online payment.
- Since all vehicle ownership transfers are captured online from the database of DMT, the vehicles transferred out of WP can be removed from the vehicle list. Thus an accurate list of debtors can be maintained.
- WP-DMT can accurately forecast their revenue.
- The citizens can visit www.motortraffic.wp.gov.lk, www.gic.gov.lk or call Government Information Centre – 1919 for obtaining information or submit their complaints/grievances.
- Online forum of Country Portal has been published to discuss the issues of eRL.
- A Facebook page was created to create more citizen interactions.
- Vehicle owners can call the Government Information Centre (GIC- 1919) for obtaining instructions and assistance for obtaining the licences.
- Once paid online, it provides a temporary licence and sends the original licence by registered post.
- ICTA has introduced mobile payments for making necessary payments for this service.
- An SMS based service has been launched for verifying the validity of any revenue licence.
This type of solutions are called whole-of-Government solutions as the citizen can transact with multiple Government organisations without visiting a single organisation. This kind of solutions provides the ultimate citizen-friendly services as all their requirements of the citizens can be met without stepping out of their homes. This system comprises the online connecting WP-DMT, DMT, nine insurance companies, two emission testing companies, two banks and nine mobile phone service provider companies to provide this connected Government service.
By December 2012, the eRL solution completed three years of successful operation and it has now been rolled-out to 25 divisional secretariats in the Western Province. Moreover officials of the Southern and the Sabaragamuwa Provinces are now in negotiation with ICTA to roll-out the eRL solution to their provinces.
This solution which is the first ever Government transactional eService, has shown a new direction where citizen services can be provided in a friendly manner with improved efficiency.
The eRL solution was piloted at the WP-DMT and three DSs namely Katana, Kaduwela and Panadura a in 2009. Details of revenue licence issuance from the eRL system in 2012 are given in the following table:
In order to assist the users and obtain their comments and proposals, an online forum has been created. Many vehicle owners who have obtained the service online have expressed their satisfaction with the service as evidenced by the following comment made by a user:
Since 2009 1,366,124 vehicle owners have been served by the eRL system. The standard time taken for the service has been two minutes to issue a licence. Two thousand four hundred and eleven number online users have obtained the licence and 98% of the users have found the service to be highly satisfactory. Since the mobile payment has been enabled for this service, it is expected that more people will use the online service.
Moreover WP-DMT has been able to recover debts from vehicle owners more efficiently.
The eRL is certainly one of the best eGovernment solutions developed so far in Sri Lanka.
This article is carried in Daily FT of 27th February 2013.