Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Reform begins at the grass roots level if it is to be meaningful, and provide an immediate return on investment – a product still mothballed, why?

Mr Nihal Ranasinghe, (photo above ) a former Controller of Immigration and Emigration, a very competent civil servant, who everyone in the loop, agrees transformed his department into one of the most efficient  and productive, Government Departments in Sri Lanka, told me about a very simple product that he has developed in his spare time to help the Country. 

It is a database product, which will have the whole country’s population as well as their relevant details on file, in order for all policy makers to utilize in making decisions at government level. It is so simple that I am surprised no one in high authority has taken in up. I suspect, personal rivalry is such that in SL we are reluctant to give credit where it is due and try to get credit for something that others do, and so as a country fail to take advantage of the truly altruistic and competent people who are willing to give of their time and knowledge to benefit the people of the Country. It is the responsibility of leaders to seek such GEMS out in society, listen to their proposals and give them the time of day and resources to implement them. These are proven people in their fields and not untested self-promoters who litter the hallways of power today.

After all each Grama Niladari Division has a GN, Samurdhi Officer and in most locations also has a Govi Niyamaka, or Agriculture Officer whose job it is to increase the production, yield and productivity of agricultural output in his area of responsibility. There are nearly 14,000 GN divisions in SL that cover all the people of the Country.

The GN has a list of the households, but does not have a complete list of everyone in it, even though each year a manual form is sent just to complete for the purposes of an Electrol Register. This is a total waste of time and resources which should be computerized automatically, instead of having to effectively do a manual and time consuming census each year.

To cut to the chase, Mr Ranasinghe’s data base would dovetail nicely with each Divisional Secretariat that handles the GN division, and I believe there are 333 of these divisions in the Country.

This will make the whole business of managing the official administration a piece of cake! It will save a lot of angst and help the people of the Country. The argument that people’s privacy will be infringed upon if their details are available to Government officials, I will say they are already available, but in manual and often incorrect and outdated form, now it will be formalized and current. This is not up to debate it is one that must be implemented without delay.

I was told that ICTA would not like this as it treads on their toes, whereas I will say, let ICTA concentrate on connecting the Government Departments to speak in unison and allow this program to fit into their system seamlessly, completing an easy task that will assist ICTA instead of compete with them to integrate this database.

The database will have details of age, sex, children, schools attended, occupation and socio economic level that the GN will update on a Lap Top or now with smart phone technology can leapfrog into a smart phone app!

This will enable him to assist the Divisional Secretariat in performing their duties, in identifying, families and individuals in need of help, and so the resources of the bloated public service in the Divisional Secretariat can be made efficient.

If I were to use an example, the person in charge in the DS office responsible for Children’s affairs will have a list of all the disadvantaged children of low income families so he or she (usually a she)  can assist them with matters like shoes for the children to go to school with if there is a state program of assistance. With malnutrition among children being a major issue that is swept under the carpet in Sri Lanka they can also keep tabs on these children and make sure the necessary nutritional supplements that various programs offer do indeed reach these people.


This is so elementary, it is tragic that no one has pointed out to our intellectually challenged leaders that it is so easy to monitor and implement.

What we see with the meetings held at the Presidential Secretariat is that no nothings are consulting supposed know it alls who are ashamed to admit their lack of knowledge. If one takes Samurdhi Officers at GN level, I know more of them at the Ground Level than anyone attending a meeting at the Presidential Secretariat who are merely pretending to know, possibly never having even spoken to a Samurdhi officer at the ground!


The new government is off to a bad start as they are not doing anything different to what previous governments have done. I have made suggestions that can be implemented without delay, and all it takes is a powerful President such as we have to give the order and someone to ensure those orders are followed with teeth to enforce, to carry out this without delay and most tasks relating to the public and their needs can be resolved in a timely manner. This matter is so elementary, the tragedy is that it is the Blind at the top leading the Blind!


Anonymous said...

It is clear why the Govt does not wish to implement this simple system that will help administer the Divisional Secretariats very efficiently.

The Govt servants don't want to work, they merely warm their desks in these offices. With this system their performance can easily be measured remotely, and they don't like it, as their incompetence and lack of skills as well as their lackadaisical attitude will become apparent

Anonymous said...

With today's technology, this information should be at the fingertips. For a small Country like Sri Lanka with a bloated Public Service, the lack of such basic information from which decisions can be made, is regrettable and long overdue.

Anil D said...

One concern is privacy. One hack and all vital information will be out for all to see.

Another concern is that this would reduce the need for such a large public sector. What would these people do if they can't shuffle paper all day long?