“Ethiopia has been transforming itself from a highly centralized nation to a decentralized one in the past two decades. After the end of the civil war, Ethiopia adopted a language, ethnic and cultural based federalism that resulted in the creation of nine regions and two city administrations. This decentralization effort was further pursued by regional administrations. Accordingly, Oromia regional state, the largest in size and population, has undertaken a Business Process Reengineering (BPR) study in 2009 on its public services, and brought about a decentralization of city administrations’ services to the lowest level administration system in the region called kebeles (equivalent to districts). Experts from the regional state made the study, the services to be offered at kebele level were identified and standard time was set for every service delivery process. The core objective was to attain fast public service delivery. Plan to automate the services was the main component in the decentralization process. The decentralization plan was implemented across all cities and towns of the region.
Adama city, the seat of the regional council, was one of the cities to take a leading action. Staffs were recruited and offices were arranged for more than six sectors, still going on, in all 14 urban kebeles of the city. However, after the staffing and office furniture were allocated there were many challenges related to institutional capacity and customer relationship.
Institutional capacity Gap
One of the major areas is the automation process that was planned in the BPR study and yet not implemented. This impedes the sharing of information and data among kebeles and sectors on the services they offer. Hence, forinstance, there is a loophole for individuals to take multiple identity cards from the social service sector in multiple kebeles. Those individuals in turn claim subsidies and benefits from the regional government channeled through kebeles. This includes taking government subsidized homes in one kebele while having home in another, and benefiting from the distribution of subsidized food oil and sugar during shortage periods from multiple kebeles. Lack of institutional capacity to develop a common database among sectors in kebeles remains a challenge to the effective delivery of services. In 2012, the city administration announced the public to cooperate in identifying individuals who registered to get government- built condominium houses yet having their own houses, which is not allowed. The list of all individuals who were registered to get those condominium houses were put public, but the result was minimal since the culture of the society goes against ‘exposing people and neighbors’ no matter what. Hence building the capacity of institutions to overcome such challenges will make the services offered to the public more efficient and adds value beyond creating access to the public.
Customer Relation and public participation
Customer handling is another issue to improve in the kebele level sector services. The sectors in kebels fail to develop a package in which customers will get complete and prompt information on the services they want to get. This is mainly classified in to the procedure, time, place, price of service and documents required to get the service.
Even if the BPR study document claims that information centers will be established in the compound of kebeles it is barely implemented. Moreover, there is no written information available to customers. For instance in the 2012 condominium houses distribution mentioned earlier , some kebeles raised the price of issuing identity card ,which is required to apply for the houses, by tenfold. Even if the social service sector can effectively entertain new customers on Tuesday and Thursday, and there are many document requirements and procedures to get a given service, they are not communicated in a written format. Signposts are not uniformly used to signal the offices of sector in kebele compounds. As a result there is a variation on the process of service delivery and on the prices they charge for the services among sectors in different kebeles, and this hamper the main objective of the decentralization process which was fast service delivery.
Moreover, there are no systems of reporting to the public on the performance of service delivery and initiatives of taking input from the public on service delivery component and process.
Ethiopia passed through a fundamental transformation from a strictly decentralized system of governance to the decentralization of public services to the lowest level of administration. Nevertheless, institutional capacity building and improvement in customer relation are the quest of the time. These will strengthen the efficiency and transparency of service delivery in kebeles”. Mesay Barekew Liche- Adama, Ethiopia