Not so smartThe Transport Department has been a failure when it comes to effective public service delivery.
The Department of Transport Management has once again opened registration for driving licences after a halt of almost six months. The department had stopped accepting online applications citing the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic from midnight on April 29. What prevented the department from resuming the application process when most other government services had resumed months earlier, and what work it did during the six months when it was not accepting new applications is not very clear. The department has remained a consistent failure over the years when it comes to effective public service delivery.
Going by the department’s claim, the applicants who apply today will have to wait for at least four months to appear for the test and the trial. That is undoubtedly a gross underestimate, for the backlog runs too long as of today. Consumers who passed the trial or renewed their licences last year are still waiting to receive their licence cards, and have to carry the cash receipt they received against paying the fees. Those who get through the trial now will receive a provisional licence even as they await a permanent licence card, which might take months to arrive as the backlog of old licence cards to be printed already runs into hundreds of thousands.
The delay, though, is not just the result of the coronavirus pandemic. Since it began services in 2015, the department has failed to deliver on its promises to make the licence distribution process swift and hassle-free. In fact, for consumers, the process itself is the punishment as they have to wait for months before they finally receive the card. The question that begs an answer is: What stops the government from continuing to distribute cardboard licence cards to consumers until it can hand them the "smart" ones?
The department has failed when it should be speeding up its services. The need to maintain physical distance with fellow humans as per the new normal brought about by the pandemic means that more and more people are now planning to purchase and ride or drive their own vehicles. But those plans have had to be postponed due to the department’s lethargy, as they cannot take their vehicles out without a driving licence. The desperate ones are even riding or driving without a driving licence, which is an illegal practice. But the department has, as of now, shown little interest in expediting the process to distribute new licence cards and, in effect, helping the illegal trend flourish.
Moreover, the department’s inefficiency has resulted in the flourishing of an illegal market for producing fake "smart" licences. Some individuals who failed driving trials or those who needed to go abroad have been found to be carrying fake licence cards. These incidents have busted the department’s claim that it is distributing fool-proof licence cards. This brings us to the question: What exactly is the point of holding on to a so-called smart licence card if its impermeability is questionable, and if the distribution process is so inefficient that it leaves consumers without a licence card for months if not years?