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June 11, 2018

Digitsing the Department for Higher Education and Training

Public service offices have many moving parts. Besides employing well over a thousand people in any given department, there are particular processes which must be followed to ensure that offices are run efficiently and that resources are appropriately allocated and managed.

This can be a daunting task in a public office like the Department for Higher Education and Training (DHET), which has head office and regional employees, as well as 264 college campuses around the country, amounting to roughly 38 000 staff members.

“Our main drive is to improve our internal operations so that our systems are more efficient and effective,” says Lulama Mbobo, Deputy Director General for Corporate Services in the DHET.

To assist in this process, the department has selected several Boxfusion Smartgov for Administration modules. These include e-submissions, invoice tracking, leave tracking, performance management and Smartgov for Committees, with a view to implement an e-recruitment module at a later stage.

Word of mouth

“In 2017 I was sitting next to a colleague from the Social Development Department on a flight. She showed me Boxfusion’s e-submissions module, and I was very impressed,” says Mbobo.

So, when she heard that Boxfusion was a supplier in the RT15 contract that had been vetted by Treasury, her department applied to participate in the contract. “It made procurement easy,” says Mbobo, “Because we didn’t need to go out on open tender.”

Not just procurement

The transaction was finalised earlier this year, but it wasn’t just signing up for Boxfusion’s automated solutions that was easy. Having a local company on hand has made an important difference to the roll-out process.

“Working with a local team is much easier than working with some software you bought internationally,” she says. “You’re able to call the MD directly to say, ‘I’ve got this problem, can you sort it out?’ Boxfusion’s performance has been commendable.”

Working smarter

While the Boxfusion solutions are still in the implementation and testing phases within her department, for Mbobo, automation of government administration is long overdue.

“People see government as old fashioned or archaic,” she says “But with these systems, we’ll be more efficient and use our time well to do other things. It’s about making government attractive and getting the best people to work for us.”

Working smarter also means ensuring processes function as they should, and the best way to do that is digitally. “I’ve been waiting impatiently for this to happen,” says Mbobo of automating administrative tasks.

She hopes that Boxfusion’s leave management and invoice tracking systems will help improve turnaround time and allow for greater accuracy within the DHET. “It’s about an accountable, responsive department and really improving our service delivery.”

Mbobo makes the point that leave is time, and time is money. With the leave management module, the DHET will be able to capture and monitor staff leave so that financial statements are accurate, while also monitoring staff attendance and productivity.

The bigger picture

Besides just making the department more efficient, it’s hoped that these solutions can help support and grow small local business. Boxfusion’s invoice tracking software should enable government to pay contractors for their services within the given 30-day period, because invoices will be processed digitally.

“If we implement systems like this one, we can contribute to the development of SMMEs and ensure we’re sustaining government’s programme of creating employment,” Mbobo indicates. It also helps reduce the risks associated with paper-based processes, like losing or misplacing service provider’s invoices.

It’s about time…

“I can’t wait for this automation to happen,” Mbobo emphasises again. She’s looking forward to working on the go, as Boxfusion’s digital solution empowers public officials to work wherever they are. “I’ve promised my DG, Principal and the Minister that they’ll no longer be carrying heavy files around…”

There are also plans to work together on creating a customised e-recruitment module for the Department of Higher Education and Training in the near-future. But as a whole, the experient working with Boxfusion has been a positive one. “I think it’s a highly professional team,” says Mobob. “I’m very impressed by their work ethic and responsiveness. They stick to their deadlines, and for me, that’s value for money.”

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