Appointed to head one of the biggest public institutions was nowhere near his thoughts or goals 10 years prior to March 2017; much less running the affairs of an institution that had gained notoriety as the most corrupt government agency in the country. As he walked into his office that fateful morning on his first day at work, the only question that rang in his head was “what have I gotten myself into?”
Being the new CEO of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) that had been taken over by middlemen alias the “goro community,”, corrupt practices and distasteful service delivery, Mr. Kwasi Agyeman Busia owed to change the narrative. “I’ll tell you. I have an office at home. I would sit and stare at the wall and digest documents for hours and look at the situation at DVLA back then- and ask myself why can’t we move from one point to the other, why can’t we provide better products and customer service ? I needed results. I will go home, meditate about the problem stare at the wall and began to draw a plplannedight after night” He recalls.
Five Years down the line, DVLA is not just a transformed government institution, it tops the list as number one in service delivery in Ghana’s Public sector.
In this bare it all interview with Africa Public Sector Magazine, Mr. Busia takes us through the journey of DVLA’s face lift, how the notorious ‘goro community’ were subdued and attempts at eliminating them from the system by leveraging People, Process and Technology to obtain an autonomous, efficient and sustainable DVLA with customer service delivery strategies in place…….
What led to the drastic reforms that have taken place since you assumed your role as CEO?
I pulled up in the parking lot at DVLA head office on March 10, 2017, that was my first day at work; my car radio was on one radio station, and DVLA was being referred to as the most corrupt government institution in the country. DVLA & another public institution actually topped the list of corrupt government institutions in the country. This is my first day on the job, I was yet to even meet the team I would be working with. Even my driver was new to me. I got out of the car asking what I had gotten myself into? When I met with my team, I reiterated what I had just heard on the radio, and I told them emphatically that by the end of my tenure at DVLA, the story would have to change and the institution would no longer be on that notorious list. There was a loud ovation in the room, and in all honesty, I had no idea the depth of what I had said and how it would happen.
What are some of the reforms and how were you able to implement them?
Management and I started looking at the problem; worked seven days a week straight for three months, until we came to three specific conclusions about our inefficiency-
Our products were not unique, they were untimely, un-securitized, and the processes were laborious and non-transparent. There was a strategic plan that had been developed for 2016-2021, which was still in operation, I had to get acclimatised to it, in addition to the strategic plan, I imbibed the content and ‘spirit’ of it. After a complete analysis, we fine-tuned it and worked with the Board of directors, the Minister, and management to broaden and make it practicable. We then developed the narration for it and went to work…
We developed what we called the six strategic pillars, identifying the six main things we needed to do to move this authority forward and at the centre of that was customer service.
The goal was to develop, digitize, and create unique products in a timely fashion, at an affordable rate, and of superior value.
The alternative illegal (‘goro’) gives you fake products, at an exorbitant price, and when the police stop you, you will not be able to produce a government-approved document.
How did we sell this strategic plan? We got all the management in one place, in one space, and unveiled the six strategic pillars to them, the pillars were image uplift, Service optimization, financial autonomy and sustainability, Human capital development, and research and business development. Customer service was the pivot, the centrality of all things we aspire to achieve.
We met in Sogakope, and this is important because I had representatives from every district and region in the room and unveiled the six pillars emphasizing on plugging leakages and transforming the authority.
We subsequently met in Kumasi where we developed a business plan from the strategic plan, we gave every district and region two years to have maximum impact and increase revenue two-fold, “double-double” we called it. We tried to make things happen quickly, and improve the idea of human relations, through the foundational theme–The people, process, and technology. For every pillar that we had, there was an admixture of these three foundational frameworks embedded to produce desired results. Therefore, instead of obtaining a driver’s license through a process that went through twenty stages, we reduced it to a 6- stage process, and then automation was made key. Whenever we could avoid a man-to-man or human interaction we achieved something because face-to-face interactions inevitably led to some possible form of corruption – doors being closed, whispers in the lobbies, all came to a stop. Everything was open, the pricing of our services was on the wall, the offices were labelled so you know what we did when you walked in. You were in a predictable environment and not in some abstract situation where somebody has to tell you what to do.
We moved to the product after we achieved desired results in the process. We realized that the driver’s license that we had then, could be duplicated very easily, so we came up with a digitized, biometric-driven product. In November 2017, eight months after I resumed office, the Vice President unveiled the new driver’s license and that’s when we stepped it up to regain our customer base lost to the “goro community”.
We also looked at the other side of our mandate which is the vehicle registration and digitized all vehicle records since 1995 and made the process more efficient. The goal was to ensure the vehicle registration process is completed in an hour.
In a nutshell, we brought automation, we leveraged our people, we abridged processes and we infused technology, not just the driver’s license, but from roadworthy to vehicle registration and a whole lot of other products we have.
The principles of People, Process, and Technology were fundamental to everything we’ve done today.
At what point did you come up with the prestige customer service centre?
After changing our processes and making the products more affordable and timelier, we came out with a scheme – Prestige, Premium, and Regular. Prestige means you get your license in 30 minutes, premium- two weeks, and regular is about a month; compared to the three-five years’ timelines we used to have in the past. This is what necessitated the prestige customer service centre. It was created strictly as an option for those who preferred prestige services and get their license within 30 minutes. This has been transformational because it had not been done before in terms of getting a driver’s license within a very short period and of good quality.
How impactful has the smart driver’s license been?
Well, we moved from the badge system, that was a long time before you were born. During that era, they had badges – a metal badge it evolved into a booklet and then they had a PVC card and we came in with the biometric card.
The impact can be seen in more revenue generation, unique and securitized products and a dent in goro’ illegal activity and results-oriented staff with performance targets etc.
People make reforms possible? How did you get your people reforms oriented?
I came in when the staff had not had many career path definitions and training with clarity on how they should move from point A to point B.
Management, with assistance from the Board of directors, created an HR department. Hitherto they had finance and administration, meanwhile, we wanted employees with a definite focus on compensation unit, learning and development and general employee welfare as their charge. Since 2018, we have had about seventy (70) training sessions, not just seminars; I’m referring to actual classes for career and welfare improvement.
We are taking care of staff healthcare as well as their immediate dependents, this helps staff focus better at work.
How will you rate service delivery at DVLA?
DVLA leads in service delivery, based on the 2021 Ghana Customer Service Index on public service delivery; we are number one in the public sector. Competing against all the big institutions and we emerged number one, this is of much gratification to all of us at DVLA.
The very entity – Transparency International -Ghana Integrity Initiative that described us as most corrupt, 3 years later on, gave us an award as most improved in administrative policies, and 5 years we were adjudged best in customer service in the public sector by Ghana Customer Service Index. We are on a transformative journey and ‘we have miles to go before we sleep. ‘
Do you nurse fears that after your tenure, things could go wrong?
I’ll explain why. We do not rely exclusively on individuals; we also have a succession plan. We depend on systems, not people; for the time being, I’m merely the poster child for our transformation drive supported by many other individuals but we are creating systems that communicate with one another to further create an integrated set of systems, a digitized ecosystem.
Change is usually met with stiff opposition. What are some of the challenges you faced during your early days in the office?
In the beginning, I intuited that there were times I would hold a meeting at the office and by the time it was all over, presumably somebody would have leaked the counter strategy to the ‘goro boys’. It was an incredible situation.
One cannot do everything by oneself, I needed a trusted circle, so we came together and began to build it.
One other rough time for me that sticks out, was the first aid kit.
The concept was good. The idea was for people who were involved in an accident and didn’t have a way of going to the hospital or access to a health care facility immediately, bandages etc were good to an equipped facility to sustain and assist them.
The concept of first aid in vehicles has always been in the books of DVLA but was never implemented, so I thought it was a great idea, the concept was good. However, we botched up the implementation and we did not do enough public education before deploying the kits- a lesson learned… deployment to be preceded by comprehensive education.
Will you say you are educating the citizenry enough on your policies?
Right now, we are deploying eye test reform, some of the managers wanted it done quickly but experience says no, we are not rushing to do this. There are commercial drivers carrying passengers who may be partially blind, driving on streets with very bad lighting, coupled up with the rains, their peripheral vision is seemingly gone. Bad eyesight may well be a contributor to some of the accidents we have on our roads and we’re trying to solve that problem. So yes, we are taking our time to educate the public on our policies.
What has been your greatest achievement as the CEO?
The transformation agenda. I’m talking about people, not just systems being transformed. Seamless systems have been built and this is good but I’m more proud of the person/staff member I saw in March 2017 and what he/she has become today. And the good news is that people/culture transformation is infectious. It is because, if somebody does it right and well, the person in the next office also imitates it. Sometimes even unconsciously.
I’m also proud of the motivated team we are building. When you are hired you go through an on boarding process with us for about a week, where you get to hear what you should expect. We orient about the vision, the objective and that one could acquire skills that could be leveraged with us, and elsewhere, so the onboarding is intense.
How would you describe your leadership style?
Transformational, I will say in all modesty- democratic, transactional, and sometimes even confrontational.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
I will like to believe that I am approachable, friendly and passionate.
How do you relax?
I like music a lot, I read, I’m reading a Donald Trump book now, but I don’t get to read as voraciously as I used to and I do TikTok.
If you had three wishes what will they be?
A world full of peace, where there are no more wars and racial discrimination. Secondly, economic success in my home country, so people don’t have to risk their lives to go to other countries in search of greener pastures. People go through incredible means in search of a better life.
The third is good health for my loved ones, my family, and me because, without that, you do not even start to live.
What are some of the factors you think are responsible for your success today?
My mother is big in this and I have had mentors. If I were to advise people who are coming of age and trying to make a career, I will tell them to find a mentor, ‘shop’ for one, and get one. You need somebody who inspires you and guides you. I have had a few in my time and so you are a product of your environment. There will be challenges and tough times you going to fail, you’re going to make mistakes, and will have bad days; you need to have an inspirer, somebody that would let you get up, dust yourself up and do it again. There is no great person in any book that you read that did not fail sometimes, the real answer is how many times you fell and how many times did you get up.
Therefore, you need that. Also, I tell the young ones to read, read anything and everything that comes their way. You have no idea where it would stand you in good stead in the future, from magazines to newspapers- read anything, but as you read just for pleasure something that is in the memory could kick in at a time you need it to assist you and/or someone else.