Technology Solutions: PCMC’s e-governance initiatives improve service delivery

PCMC’s e-governance initiatives improve service delivery

The Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) was constituted in 1982 in Maharashtra for providing services like water supply, sewerage, stormwater drainage, healthcare and education to a population of around 2 million.

For the past decade or so, PCMC has been implementing e-governance initiatives to improve service delivery. The civic agency has taken several initiatives to streamline its water supply and sewerage services and augment revenue collection, including setting up a grievance management system and an online bill payment system. It has also undertaken geographic information system (GIS) mapping of utilities, installed a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system, and established citizen facilitation centres (CFCs).

PCMC has developed and integrated its entire operational system with e-governance infrastructure and provides various citizen-centric services through a one-stop access point. These services include:

Online tax/user charge collection: PCMC has launched an online bill payment facility for property and water taxes. Under this, property and water bills are generated online by providing details pertaining to the zone, name, register number, consumer number or property tax number, address and bill number.

A private company has been appointed to record meter readings and issue water bills to residents. It has hired meter readers to visit houses and take pictures of water meters, note their readings and pass on the details to PCMC. Monthly water bills are delivered to consumers, along with photographs of their water meter readings. Consumers can pay their property and water bills using credit cards, debit cards or net banking services. Different service charges apply for these payment modes.

The online system captures and stores a chronological record of bill payments. It is also capable of generating reports with details of the consumer number and outstanding bills, along with pending and received amounts. Consumers have the option of verifying and correcting bill amounts on the spot. They can also lodge complaints online or through SMS and get any required corrections made in PCMC’s database.

For consumers who do not have internet access, PCMC has set up five pay-point centres at different locations in the city. Here, consumers can pay their property taxes and water bills, and avail of all the other services that are provided online.

Grievance cell and management system: PCMC has also developed a grievance cell and grievance management system for receiving consumer complaints regarding civic services. The grievance cell accepts complaints through its website, phone/fax, email, SMS and in the form of written complaints. These are then routed to the concerned department. The system automatically sends a notification to the appointed person in the department, as well as to the consumer, indicating that their grievance has been forwarded. The official handling the grievance sets the status to “in-process” when he/she starts working on it. In case it is not addressed within the stipulated time, it is automatically escalated to the department head, city engineer or commissioner, based on a predefined escalation matrix. The official is required to continue reporting the status of the complaint to the consumer until it is resolved.

SCADA system for water distribution: PCMC has installed a SCADA system in its water supply network. It has set up flow meters at the raw water pumping station at Ravet, at the water treatment plants (WTPs) in Nigdi, in the two main pipelines for water supply to the elevated storage reservoirs (ESRs), and at the ESRs. This facilitates the monitoring of water at each stage. The SCADA system allows PCMC to conduct real-time monitoring of water flow, purification levels, storage at the ESRs, and the quantity supplied and duration of supply.

The civic agency has also installed local SCADA systems in six newly built sewage treatment plants (STPs) at Chinchwad, Ravet, Kasarwadi, Sangvi, Dapodi and Charholi. However, old STPs at Chikhli, Bhatnagar (Pimpri), Pimpale Nilakh, Sangvi and Kasarwadi do not have SCADA systems. PCMC is now installing a centralised SCADA system at five old STPs and 16 pumping stations in Pimpri-Chinchwad. This will enable central monitoring of the water level, the amount of treated sewage as well as quality parameters like the dissolved oxygen level and chemical oxygen demand.

GIS: PCMC has taken up GIS mapping of the 181 square km under its jurisdiction using the Quick Bird satellite map (with a 0.6 metre resolution) as well as a combination of databases and application services. The system is integrated with different modules and applications like property tax, water charges, project monitoring systems and building permissions that provide all services to citizens online. PCMC has also prepared utility maps for the entire municipal area covering water supply lines, drainage lines, STPs, WTPs, waterbodies, etc.

CFCs: The civic agency has set up 16 CFCs at different locations to provide hassle-free one-stop solutions to citizens.

Earlier, there were five CFCs within PCMC limits: one at PCMC’s main office building and one each at the four zonal offices. In 2014, the municipal corporation granted permission to private operators to open centres where citizens could pay property and water tax bills, as well as obtain licences and building permissions. These centres are operated by private agencies that require a payment of Rs 20 as service charge, of which the operator retains Rs 15 and Rs 5 is given to PCMC.

The CFCs provide citizen-centric services related to over 12 PCMC departments, including drainage, water supply, building permissions, property tax, self-assessment projects and slum rehabilitation. In addition to core municipal services, they offer services provided by the Regional Transport Office, State Transport Corporation, Life Insurance Corporation of India, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited, the police and the district collectorate at a fixed charge.

Now, PCMC is planning to set up CFCs in each of its 64 wards in a phased manner. It recently announced its plans of appointing a private agency to do so in 20 wards.

Other major e-governance services covered by the online system include e-tendering, building permission management and a dashboard for work management. These IT modules are oper-ated and maintained with the help of a well-equipped in-house staff, which is trained regularly to keep pace with rapid changes in technology and software.

The way forward

PCMC’s e-governance initiatives have resulted in several benefits in the form of time savings and efficient service delivery. Additional advantages include:

  • Easy access to authentic information enhances the decision-making capabilities of officials and improves service delivery
  • The system has been developed on an open source platform with no licence fees for transactions. The charges for using payment gateways for property taxes and water bills are also minimal
  • The collection, storage and monitoring of water supply and sewage data is possible on a real-time basis
  • Reduced maintenance and operating costs
  • Immediate notification of problems and the area of their occurrence
  • The online system enhances the accountability and transparency of service delivery and the charges paid by consumers
  • PCMC takes regular feedback from users and citizens to handle any difficulties that may arise in the e-governance system. It has set up a dedicated cell for addressing such issues
  • The e-governance system is constantly reviewed and assessed. PCMC undertakes day-to-day monitoring with the help of its technical staff. Weekly meetings are held by the commissioner to review consultant per-formance and gauge future requirements.

PCMC’s e-governance initiatives have been widely recognised. The civic agency won the National E-governance Gold Award, the EGDE Award for E-governance and the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission Best City Award for outstanding efforts in the field of e-governance. In 2010, it was given the SKOCH Award for efficient citizen service delivery.

Further, technological advancements are expected to expand the scope of initiatives for improving the consumer interface. PCMC’s e-governance system is expected to serve as an example that other local bodies can learn from and use to implement similar projects.