Further priority should be given for the expansion of e-procurement, land digitization and union digital centre. The economic benefits would be much higher and service delivery would improve if the government gives further priority to digitization during the ongoing seventh five-year plan between 2016 and 2020, the researchers of BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University and Copenhagen Consensus Center (CCC) urged the government policy makers at a seminar on Smart Interventions for 7th Plan Priorities, on 09 January 2017, at the BRAC Centre Inn.
Five different papers on Impact of e-procurement on reducing corruption and promoting competition, by Dr. Wahid Abdallah, Research Fellow, BIGD; Land Digitization for Smart Governance, by Ms. Sumaiya Kabir Talukder, Katalyst; Justice at the village level: What is the smart policy?, by Ms. Nabila Zaman, BIGD; Strengthening UDCs for Accelerated Public Service Delivery, and RMG Palli and Factory Compliance, by Mr. Hasanuzzaman, Outreach Manager, CCC, were presented at the seminar.
Dr. Shamsul Alam, Member, General Economics Division (GED), Planning Commission, Ministry of Planning and Mr. Anir Chowdhury, Policy Advisor, a2i, Prime Minister's Office (PMO), attended the seminar as the Guests of Honour.
Dr. Nasiruddin Ahmed, Commissioner, Anti Corruption Commission (ACC); Mr. Mohammad Muslim Chowdhury, Additional Secretary, Finance Division; Mr. AKM Asaduzzaman Patwary, Research Fellow, Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industries (DCCI); and Mr. Shahariar Sadat, Academic Coordinator, South Asian Institute of Advanced Legal and Human Rights Studies (SAILS) attended the seminar as panelists.
Dr. Shamsul Alam, however, said the government should be careful about e-security with the expansion of digitization. Bangladesh Bank lost its US$ 81 million reserve fund due to security breach in electronic payment systems with its account holder, the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Hacking affected the recently held election in the US, he added.
On the basis of cost benefit analysis, the paper on UDC said benefit of Tk 8 would come from spending Tk 1 for expanding UDC service for giving service delivery of mobile banking, citizen certificates, application for machine readable passport and payment of utility bills. The paper also said international migration through the UDCs would generate benefit of Tk 22 from spending Tk 1.
In the other papers on land digitization and e-procurement, the BIDG researchers calculated that there would be big returns against less investment.
In 2011, the government introduced electronic government procurement on limited scale. Only 9.5 per cent of the total government procurement was carried through e-tendering.
Discussants, mostly government officials, lauded initiatives of the BIGD. They said ‘enforcement’ of government policy decisions was more important for improving service delivery than expansion of digitization.
Mr. Muslim Chowdhury said, the cost-benefit analysis was not credible as the researchers did not consider the ‘institutional issues’ and continuous ‘engineering process’. Digitization should not be regarded as a magical tool, he added.
Adviser to ‘a2i project’ of the PMO Mr. Anir Chowdhury said enforcement was always important for implementation of the government policy decisions. Giving an example of Chittagong Customs House (CCH), he said the authorities simplified the delivery system without expansion of the digital devices. He said the CCH authorities decreased the checking points to 6 from previous 42 to implement the government decisions in improving the port services.
Anti-corruption commissioner Nasiruddin Ahmed said the land department was out and out a corrupt organisation. Only digitization would not be able to curb corruption in the sector, he said, adding that long-term reform was needed to tackle the problems in the land sector.
The discussants, however, admitted that the topics described by the BIGD researchers in their papers were crucial. They said the government already prioritised almost all the issues in its seventh five-year plan that would expire in 2020.
The seminar was jointly organized by BIGD and CCC which aimed to discuss the findings of research on a series of important governance and justice policy interventions. Distinguished personalities, senior government officials, academics and experts also attended the seminar.