Public servants discontent with eDATS

Many civil servants say that the new system is not user-friendly

The electronic Daily Allowance and Travel System (eDATS) was implemented on July 1 this year, but public servants are not happy with the system.

​The eDATS is an online travel authorization and claims system of the government that was launched by the Ministry of Finance (MoF) in February and implemented from July 1.

Many civil servants said that the new system is not user-friendly.

A civil servant, on the condition of anonymity, said that the eDATS, which is an online travel authorization system of the government, has been a rush and a shamble.

“It has brought many problems, chaos, and was disorganized when it was initially started in July itself. It was not a wise idea for the ministry to start the eDATS to be rolled out for implementation without intense analysis,” the civil servant said.

Another civil servant said that it did not serve the purpose towards strengthening public financial management through the digitalization of daily allowances and travel payment process. “Instead, it has created many problems.”

Meanwhile, the MoF had expected the implementation of the eDATS to bring several benefits but it has gone otherwise. 

Those dealing with the eDATs said that it is ultimately taking or consuming more time in processing travel claims. The travel authorization has to be approved first by an immediate supervisor followed by the Accounts and Finance Division (AFD) head or focal person of the concerned agency. Then it has to be routed through and duly verified by the agency focal in the MoF.

“There are no options to choose the right places in the system. Places are not captured in the system,” a civil servant said.

They said that as expected by the MoF to greatly reduce administrative burden through paperless procedures, it is as good as they have done manually in the past. At the end of the procedures, they added that they have to submit the summarized print travel claims with office order to accounts, which are more time-consuming. 

Many mentioned that there is also no budget code to book the travel claims. They added that it is also a confusing system. While manually in the past, it used to take 5-10 minutes but it takes more than 30-40 minutes just to claim 10 days as they have to claim one by one (day wise) and submit it. 

They added that then they have to call the immediate supervisor to approve it. Further, it goes to the AFD and MoF. The requests cannot be made beyond the immediate supervisor. This is the time where it does not get approved and it gets prolonged.

 Moreover, civil servants said that if the claimant makes a mistake while entering into the system, it cannot be rectified at the agency level, the claimant must write to the MoF’s focal person to rectify it and this also consumes more time. 

For instance two national-level activities are going on – the national forest inventory and national tiger survey in the forests and agriculture ministry. Since the foresters have to travel in the forest, there is no identified destination in the system. Foresters will be traveling to all the nooks and crannies of the country, some of which include so remote places that hardly any human being has been there. However, currently, they are given temporary measures that they can claim in paper form.   

 The MoF has implemented the eDATS expecting to reduce turnaround time in processing travel claims and bring uniformity in the application of rates and travel distances. The system is also expected to eliminate double claims or payments.

 According to the MoF, the eDATS will also minimize risks of fraud, corruption and rent-seeking opportunities, while giving real-time reports for monitoring and decision-making purposes. It will also support the overall government initiative of digitalization.

 With its implementation, the eDATS is expected to greatly reduce the administrative burden through paperless procedures and help to provide timely reports for monitoring and decision-making purposes.

 However, those working in the accounts section in government agencies said that there are no documents like office order and report of the tour in the system and that they have to follow personally to the claimant to send the documents which are time consuming.

 However, a MoF official said that with the system under implementation for just two months, the ministry is in the process of streamlining the implementation of the eDATS. The online system is in a very early stage for review and implementation status.

 The official mentioned that the user-friendly status of the eDATS will be clearer after one year of the implementation.

 “The online system of the eDATS once stabilized will be user friendly and improve the Turn-Around-Time (TAT) in processing TA/DA. Till the system is stabilized, there will be constant improvement services for the eDATS. The system will need about six-seven months for it to become reliable and efficient,” the official said, adding that the eDATS will be integrated with e-PEMS at the earliest to enhance the TAT of service delivery.

Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu