Lack of service charter increases cost of doing business, breeds corruption

Chief Executive Officer of the Private Enterprises Federation (PEF)
Nana Osei Bonsu Chief Executive Officer of the Private Enterprises Federation (PEF)

The inability of permit, licence and certificate-issuing agencies to effectively implement up-to-date service delivery charters makes them inefficient and leads to increase in cost of doing business by the private sector; and as such is seen as a catalyst for corruption.

A service charter, typically a public document, sets out basic information on the services provided, the standards of service that costumers can expect from an organisation, and how to make complaints or suggestions for improvement. Although most state agencies have them, they are either outdated or seldom implemented, leading to delays, according Nana Osei Bonsu, who is Chief Executive Officer of the Private Enterprises Federation (PEF).

“It increases cost of doing business,” he said. “If I need a licence today and you delay me six months, within those six months I cannot start or continue to do business; the people I have hired I either have to pay them or they have to leave; so the cost of doing business keeps skyrocketing because of the absence of efficiency in delivering critical services by state agencies,” he said.

Mr. Bonsu spoke to the B&FT in Accra at a stakeholder engagement for the private sector and state agencies which issue licences, permits and certificates, and added that most agencies fall short because of the absence of tools or the necessary resources to enable them to carry out their job – including lack of implementation for service delivery charters and lack of technical skills.

The stakeholder consultation was organised by the Ghana Integrity Initiative and PEF. It forms part of a project to improve the efficiency of state agencies in delivering services such as licences, permits and certificates to the private sector.

“A service charter is what they use as medium to deliver the services to people, and most of them are flawed. It has not been amended over the period and is not living up to the 21st century business development programme. So, what we are doing is to bring both sides – businesses and public agencies – to identify a common ground, understand the challenges and how to overcome them,” he noted.

On how these agencies can improve efficiency, he recommended that permit, licence and certificate-issuing bodies be allowed to keep user fees – the fees that they charge businesses.

Catalyst for corruption

Clara Kasser Tee, a legal practitioner and consultant for the project, noted that to avoid the frustration that comes with the delays and possible loss of productive man-hours, businesses are often compelled to pay extra. “The impact is that delays trigger the corruption. We have done research that has shown the reason for a lot of corruption in the system is because of the delays in obtaining services,” she said.

Worryingly, she stated that it is local businesses that suffer the most – because they do not have extra money to pay in order to expedite the process of getting a permit, licence or certificate.

In most cases, she said, people seeking services do not exactly know what is required of them because public agencies do not have charters that set out clearly what services they provide and the requirements for obtaining them

“Sometimes it is not very clear and the back and forth easily get people frustrated, which makes them feel they want to pay to avoid the frustration. What a service delivery charter does is state the service that an institution provides, so that confusion is eliminated. When you pick their services delivery charter you can see the services that they provide, so you will know what services they provide and at what cost.”

The agencies that participated in the forum include the Lands Commission, Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS), Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA) and the Registrar General Department (RGD).

The rest are Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL), Driver and Vehicle Licencing Authority (DVLA), National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), Commission on Human Rights Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) and Ghana Standards Authority (GSA).

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