Chhattisgarh moves to paperless secretariat

State aims to convert all files into digital format, making it easy to track and monitor their movement

pratap

Pratap Vikram Singh | December 1, 2014



At the Chhattisgarh secretariat the administrative staff may not have much work by 2017. A mammoth exercise is underway to digitise the records of all 49 departments, centrally store them and send them from one office to another in few seconds at theclick of a button.

In the existing system, principal secretaries and other senior officials are often unaware of the exact whereabouts of a file within their own departments. It might take a few days for a file to be sent from the head of department’s office to the lowest rung officer and vice versa or to other departments, even if they are located in the same premises. With increase in the number of files record-keeping has become cumbersome.

The state government, with the help of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), has provided departments with the digital secretariat application—a software for managing the office workflow. Using the common portal, cgdigital.gov.in, department heads can now easily work on files electronically and send them to juniors within departments and to their counterparts in other departments. The electronic transaction of files makes tracing and monitoring easy.
The application allows officials to attach soft copies of previous note sheets and communications without being dependent on the junior office staff. The government has made the new system of electronic generation and circulation of files mandatory, although officials said this might happen once every department comes on board.

The project is being implemented in two phases. The first is the digitisation of records and second is the rollout of digital secretariat application. As of now, records belonging to 42 of the total 49 departments have been digitised. The application, however, has been rolled out only in 14 departments. So far more than 1.2 crore pages of note sheets and letters from 42 departments have been digitally scanned.

While files are being moved electronically within departments, inter-departmental file movement will still take some time. Departments like finance and general administration, where most of the files are sent for clearances, are yet to roll out the application.

The Chhattisgarh Infotech and Biotech Promotion Society (CHiPS), the nodal agency overseeing implementation, plans to complete the rollout across all departments in another 12 months. Senior bureaucrats are cheerful about the digital secretariat, as it has given them greater control over file keeping and movement.

“The digital secretariat has made it easy to trace the documents. If I am marking a file to my junior, he will, in turn, mark it to his junior. Since documents are available online, I can know the exact location of the file and the comments of the officials. I would know if a file has been put up at all,” said V Anand Babu, secretary, IT and biotechnology department and special secretary, energy department. “The dependency on stenographers and office staff has been reduced,” he said.

According to AM Parial, vice chairman, CHiPS, the digital secretariat is an automated process to make the entire process standardised, efficient and productive. “The system will help in tracking and monitoring of files and will thus provide a better control over a huge volume of records,” Parial said. The project was initially conceptualised by the IT department in 2007. It was finally approved for rollout in 2012 by the secretary.

The total project cost – which includes digitisation, distribution of scanners to all departments and training – is '12 crore. The application has been hosted at state data centre (SDC). The project has to be completed in five years by 2017.

According to Babu, there is also a plan to extend the automation beyond secretariat to cover offices of officials heading government organisations and directorates. Within the secretariat, even partial automation has started showing results. It took the Chhattisgarh tourism department, for instance, less than a month to receive its budgetary funds. Earlier, the fund transfer would often get delayed by as much as six months owing to the manual, and slower, file movements.

When a file is moved to the finance department, tourism officials also upload details on the portal. Though the file is still moved manually, online system helps them track the file. “Now it has become faster and the department gets budgetary allocation in less than two weeks,” said Dr TC Gupta, joint secretary, tourism department.

The implementation, however, has few hiccups too. Even though the department officials have been provided training for using the digital secretariat, they are yet to get proficient with the new system. This has slowed down the file disposal in some offices.

“Initially I could dispose 40-50 files on a daily basis. Now since the staff is slow in writing in Hindi on a computer, I could only clear five to 10 files,” said a secretary-level official with the state government.

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