Achieving Quality Control

It is common sense for any right thinking person to demand quality in a product or service rendered. By experience the government sector fails to deliver on this front. Everywhere you go, most products or services handled by the government are below par in terms of quality. The same is the case in Nagaland when it comes to our roads, electricity, health care, education, water supply etc. Many people misconstrue that quality require more costs and that it is expensive to maintain quality services. Such an argument is not necessarily true. The important thing to do is to manage whatever resource is made available in an efficient manner without wastage and compromise. Against this backdrop and expectation for quality, the Nagaland Government has finally set up a State Quality Control Board comprising of a Chairman and two members. As per whatever little official information that has been put out, two senior retired Engineers and a bureaucrat have been appointed. The board has started functioning in the old PWD (Housing), Chief Engineer’s office located at the PWD complex in Kohima.
The need for a Quality Control Board was on the agenda of the State government for long and therefore the decision to officially set up such a board does not come as a surprise. In fact it was long overdue. The only concern is whether the board will be able to function independently without fear and favour and come out with not only clear guidelines or direction but also enforce the same. While no doubt on paper the board may have powers to inspect projects, construction work that are being undertaken in the State by various government departments/undertaking etc or verifying that the quality of materials being used in the construction or materials supplied to department are in accordance with specification, what are the mechanism spelled out to ensure that follow up action is there to ensure quality control not on paper but on the ground where the real work is taking place.
Maintaining quality control while implementing public works will be easier said than done. If we desire quality in our government, we have to do away with the corrupt system—of paying kickbacks and commissions whether to our politicians or our national workers. All these are added to the enormous costs of implementing a project. The result is that quality suffers a great deal. This is the crux of the problem. It is not that our engineers or contractors are incapable of doing a good job rather they are faced with enormous hurdles. If the Government is serious about quality control, then the premise of having a board should reflect in its independence, real powers, composition of the team (not just yes man) and the nature of appointment (where the Leader of Opposition should also be included while selecting the members).
According to whatever little information appearing in the media, it seems that the Quality Control Board will be limited to making recommendations only and not having the power to enforce on its findings. It’s more like following the convention of submitting an annual report to the Chief Secretary and also recommendations of the board would be placed before the Cabinet for review. So the question arises whether having a Quality Control Board will be wastage of time and effort if the work of the board is confined to making annual reports and the power to decide is left at the political level.