Ministry of Regional Municipality and Water Resources

The Problem

The Ministry of Regional Municipality and Water Resources (MRMWR) oversees the provision of municipal services, infrastructures and water resources to 44 municipalities in 9 governorates in the Sultanate of Oman. Some of the services include licensing and permit system for the application, approval and renewal of various permits such as building permits, rent contracts, shop licenses, issuing of health permits and water resource management as well as collection of revenue from the various licensing activities. The 9 governorates have a total population of about 1.9 million citizens and residents covering a total of about 208k sq km. The average population per square kilometre in these governorates is about 9 inhabitants. Providing quality municipal services over a vast area in which 70% are rural community pose a constant challenge to MRMWR.
Citizens and business owners had to make multiple physical trips to the respective municipality offices to request for services, follow-up and make their complaints or provide feedback. Some had to make numerous trips and travel long distances to follow-up on their issues. They had to visit different officers depending on their issues and very often they had to meet several officers before they were finally referred to the right department. Such processes frustrated both the staff and the customers. For example, to obtain a permit to build a new house, the citizen would have to make at least 4 minimum trips to the Municipality office nearest their vicinity and it took an average of 30 working days to complete each transaction.
In addition, there was no standardised procedure to process the various municipality services. Each municipality carried out the processes of issuing permits and licenses differently. Some carried out manually while other used some form to database system to process the applications. Collating data from each municipality and governorate was a constant problem for the Ministry whose headquarters is situated in the capital city of Muscat.
Communication connectivity in the interior regions also posed another great challenge to the Ministry as not every citizen or resident have access to the internet and the provision of electronic services was also limited. The lack of data and information from the various regions created other challenges for long term strategic planning in the Ministry. Often, information received was outdated and erroneous. Manual tracking and monitoring of permit issue as well as revenue collection were tedious and challenging for the Ministry staff. Moreover due to the long process for approval, the revenue generated from such services was also limited. Clearly an efficient way to manage the customers’ activities and the internal processes were badly needed to improve the services and bring about customers’ satisfaction would also improve the revenue collection.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
Based on the problems identified and feedback from the customers, MRMWR developed and implemented the one-stop municipal services concept of the Injaz (Achievement in Arabic) Hall to house all the municipal services under one roof. Applications and approval processes were streamlined and standardized through all the municipalities. The Injaz hall was officially launched in 2008 in all 44 municipalities. The services available at the Injaz Hall include building permit application, municipal licenses application which is then linked to the income module for payment. Customer service agents at the Injaz Hall are the first line personnel who attends to the needs and requests of the citizens and residents. The agents will register all requests and feedback into a client-server IT-based system. The customers are notified by SMS once their requests are accepted and they can follow-up on the status of their application via telephone call instead of having to travel personally to the municipality office.
Once the service is entered, the respective departments in each municipality will carry out the relevant process according to the standard procedures and update the status of the application accordingly. Customers are then informed of their application status and collection of the permit. A backend integrated database system running on Oracle capable of handling up to 2000 users supports the Injaz Hall one-stop service application. Through an integrated database system, MRMWR Head Quarters situated in Muscat is now able to access and retrieve information for planning in realtime. This is essential in providing accurate and reliable data for national development plans in the 9 governorates. With standardized information from all municipalities, data collection and knowledge sharing are simplified and can be accurately used in further planning and strategic development in MRMWR.
Since the implementation of the Injaz Hall, the average approval for each application is reduced from 30 working days to 5 working days (which is about 83% reduction in processing time). Customers were also very pleased that they now had only to make 2 trips down to the Injaz hall as follow-up can now be done via the phone.
For MRMWR, the Injaz Hall since its implementation has processed and issued about 142k Shop Licenses, 10k Car Licenses, 134k Rent Contract and 165k Building Permits. Previous data was not available as manual records were not stored. Most remarkable achievement of all, the revenue collected from municipal services also increased dramatically. With careful streamlining and standardizing of processes plus centralising of municipal services in all 44 municipalities, the revenue collected increased multiply-folds annually. As of end Jul 2012, the amount collected so far is about 7 million OMR (USD 18 million) which is about 15 times the amount collected in 2008 making it an astounding 1,429% increment!

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
The concept of Injaz Hall One–Stop Municipal Services was conceptualised and implemented by the Directorate of Information Technology in collaboration with the Directorate of Municipalities and Water Resources in each region, the Directorate of the Technical Affairs, Directorate of Health Monitoring and the Directorate of Admin and Finance. The whole project was managed by the Directorate of IT in MRMWR.

Leveraging on the use of IT system and solution, MRMWR was able to streamline and standardise the business process and implemented the initiative. The IT solution to support the client-based application which formed the backend operations of the Injaz Hall was developed in-house by the team from the Directorate of Information Technology in MRMWR. Training was conducted to the municipality staff on the revised processes along with the use of the IT system. Manuals were also prepared and distributed to the staff on all the key processes to ensure compliant and efficient service. MRMWR provided help-desk support to assist the municipality with any technical issues faced during the implementation. After successful implementation for 5 years and continuous feedback from the customers, MRMWR is currently preparing to upgrade the Injaz Hall services with more efficient system including on-line electronic services for some applications.

The main stakeholders are the 9 Directorate General in the Governorates, the 44 Municipalities, the MRMWR as well as the citizens, residents and businesses in the governorates.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
The Injaz Hall project aimed at streamlining and standardising the municipality services in all the governorates to ensure smooth flow and transparency in service delivery, automate the process through the use of IT solution, facilitate and improve the level of work and administrative and technical support to the municipalities, synergising the processes in the Ministry as well as the governorate and most important of all to improve customers services.

A phase approach strategy was adopted to implement the solution by the DG of IT and the IT team with support from the Governorates and the Municipalities. Requirements gathering were done for all municipalities in order to streamline and standardise all the municipal processes which involved numerous visits, meetings and discussions with the various stakeholders in the 9 governorates and 44 municipalities. This was an essential step before any process could be automated. In this initiative, IT is merely the enabler, the most important aspect of this initiative is the provision of quality services provided seamlessly to the customers irrespective of which governorates they reside. The services provided are standardised and customers no longer needed to wait so long or made numerous trips to the municipal offices to have their licences approved.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
A phase approach was adopted to implement the solution as follows;

Phase 1 – Updating of Internal Network system (2007)
• In this phase, preparation and updating of internal networks in the Ministry Head Office and the various municipalities and governorates. This includes linking to the Government Network System through MPLS, procurement of the relevant hardware and software required and the establishment of Data Center.

Phase 2 – Business Process Re-engineering (2007)
• A review of all the procedures associated with the municipal services and approval
• A revised system involving Municipality Permits (Commercial Medical Permits, Car Permits, Rental Agreements and Medical Card), Building Permits, Revenue Model and Water Resource Permits were documented and agreed.

Phase 3 – Implementation (2008)
• Client server applications were developed using Oracle 6i Forms, Oracle 6i Reports & 11g RAC as the database. These applications are accessed throughout the organizations, mainly at 55 remote offices throughout Oman.
• Testing and onsite trainings were conducted in the various governorates
• Construction of 44 Injaz Halls in each municipality

Phase 4 – Maintenance (post 2008)
• Helpdesk set up to monitor the operations of the Injaz Hall
• Feedback from users and customers for improvement of the system
• Preparation of improvement of system

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
During the implementation of Injaz Hall, there were many obstacles, but they were handled professionally.
1. Multiple processes in different locations
For example, in the user requirements gathering stage, there were difficulties in unifying the procedures of the services among the different Municipalities and Governorates in the Sultanate. Many meetings and workshops were conducted with the users from all Municipalities to streamline and standardise the procedures.
2. Non IT-savvy users
Another obstacle was non-IT savvy users, as some of them were working manually (paper) during the legacy systems. To handle this situation, MRMWR conducted internal training on the new process and the IT system. IT department also provided these users with the latest hardware and network system. As human nature, people always have resistance to change; therefore some users had this resistance to change from legacy system. MRMWR Project team conducted meetings with the users and their managers to explain them about the benefits and advantages of the new system thus ensuring their co-operation.

3. Vastness of the 9 Governorates
Consolidating the municipal services into the Injaz Hall in each municipality was the greatest challenge as some of the governorates have very remote community and sparsely populated. Selecting the location for the Injaz was another challenge due to the vastness of the governorate. In essence, most of the Injaz Halls were established in easily accessible areas to meet the convenience of the citizens and the residents.

4. Connectivity and Communication limitation
Due to the vastness of some of the governorates, connectivity poses another challenge. Various means of connectivity were then deployed apart from the LAN, mobile Broadband and satellite communication.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
1) Financial cost of the system

• MRMWR invested initially about 120k OMR (USD 312k) with an annual maintenance of 10k OMR (USD 26k) and annual Oracle license renewal of 50k OMR (USD 130k).
• Cost of Construction of all the Injaz Halls amounted to 480k OMR (USD 1.2 million)

2) Technical Architecture
Based on the business need, a technology solution of proven capability and the experience and competency to deliver on a tight timeline of demonstrable results was sought. MRMWR decided to develop the backend IT solution using Oracle Business Suite in a full cycle engagement which included pre-project consulting, on project business process reengineering, implementation and customizations, training and knowledge transfer, data migration and integration of applications, support and maintenance services.
The client-server system deployed 6 Blade Servers, 2 for application servers and 2 for database, 1 for testing and 1 development
The project team could demonstrate the skills and the resources available to implement this unique solution. They had the ability to understand and propose a solution encompassing the MRMWR’s existing application and data fragmentation problems. They could demonstrate a proven change management and knowledge transfer strategy that would be able to bring to MRMWR the business benefits sought and owned the application and its future upgrades and improvements
3) Human Resource cost

• Internal Team – 2 Database Administrators, 3 Developers, and a team for the Helpdesk services which provide technical support for all Injaz Hall IT services

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
Corporate Sustainability

The Injaz Hall initiative incorporates corporate sustainability which enables MRMWR to develop the skills, approaches and tools needed to better integrate with the key business objectives, and the manner in which the change management can be done to achieve the organization’s vision. This is achieved through business process re-engineering based on MRMWR’s requirements to suit the future needs. Moreover, it is easy to change any business process through the workflow engine. At the same time, the project built the capacity and capability of the MRMWR technical development team which will enable them to lead the next phase of upgrades. This strategy achieved corporate sustainability by developing the skills and competencies essential to ensure project sustainability.

Political Sustainability

Political sustainability cannot be achieved without participation from various stakeholders. Therefore, in the initial stage of project, many meetings were held with various stakeholders to achieve political sustainability and secured their buy-in. From top management to the key users and customers, they were involved in the process re-engineering of municipal services. Feedback and suggestions were sought from the stakeholders to improve the processes. The participation of all stakeholders enable MRMWR to build a unify solution with a clear business process and workflow for all services in an integrated manner which enables the project to be politically sustainable for the future.

Economic Sustainability

A clear economic benefit is derived from this project as it unifies all the fees structure across all 44 municipalities by automating the service processes and revenue collection. The system resulted in more municipalities related services being processed which lead to increase in revenue for the MRMWR. With the increased in revenue, this initiative is financially viable and self-sustained.

Usability and revision Sustainability

MRMWR Injaz Hall initiative is sustainable and transferable to other municipalities and councils as long as they have the same municipal services. New services can easily be added into the system to adapt to the organizational requirements. In addition, due to the shared nature of the backend system, all the Municipalities would be able to share knowledge and information through shared services. Hence, improving the users’ interactions and experiences.

Ecological Sustainability

The successful usage and implementation of the Injaz Hall, it also empowers the municipality staff to provide quality services to the customers. The system enables the customers to communicate, interact and transact with the MRMWR effectively and efficiently. Most importantly, the Injaz hall is accessible to all, adapted to local needs, sustainable for future progress and has a positive impact on the environment by reducing the need for numerous long distances travelling and tons of paperwork leading to ecological sustainability.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
Some of the returns on investment from the Injaz Hall initiatives are as follows;

a. About 4,000% increased in applications processed and approved from 2008 to 2012.
i. Shop License - 90% increased from about 5k licenses in 2008 to 53k licenses in Dec 2011.
ii. Car License - 95% increased from about 212 licenses in 2008 to 4k licenses in Dec 2011.
iii. Rent Contract - 91% increased from about 5k contracts in 2008 to 49k contracts in Dec 2011.
iv. Building Permit - 97% increased from about 2k building permits in 2008 to 63k permits in Dec 2011.

b. 1,429% Increased in revenue collected
When the Injaz Hall was first implemented in few locations in 2008, the amount of revenue collected was only about 454k Omani Rials (USD 1.2 million). However, with careful streamlining and standardizing of processes plus centralising of municipal services in all 44 municipalities, the revenue collected increased multiply-folds annually. As of end Jul 2012, the amount collected so far is about 7 million Omani Rials (USD 18 million) which is about 15 times the amount collected in 2008 making it an astounding 1,429% increment!
In addition the following are also achieved;
a. Better customer satisfaction –from the increasing number of permits processed. Through the Injaz Hall, the application and transactions are completed electronically, thus reducing the need for customers to make multiple trips and wait for a long time for approval.
b. Knowledge Management – realtime data and information from the 44 municipalities and 9 Governorates which enables the HQ to strategically plan future infrastructure and related projects in each regions. Sharing of knowledge between HQ and the 9 governorates is also enabled.
c. Empowerment at Municipality level - In addition by empowering each municipality with the Injaz Hall services, data is collected accurately and backend bottleneck is eradicated.
d. Standardisation of processes – The approval process for permits and licenses has been standardized and streamlined throughout the 44 municipalities. Hence providing more accurate data and better services. Through standardization, now it only takes an average of 1 week to process an application for permits and licenses instead of 5 weeks previously.

Some of the major factors for success in this project were;
1. Clear vision and objectives provided by the Executive Management and MRMWR
2. Strong support of executive management of MRMWR and the development team
3. Strong and responsible Project management from MRMWR IT department
4. Major highlight of this implementation was dedicated and committed efforts from the staff in the various governorates and the development team. Both parties collaborated in a supportive manner to ensure successful delivery and implementation of this project

Lessons Learnt
a. Re-engineering the business processes of the municipal services must be done prior to the automation process. This saved a lot of time during definition phase of the project lifecycles and would reduce the change requests for the business processes in the later stages of the project.
b. Documentation for Project Management is essential to ensure that the backend system can be maintained properly.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Ministry of Regional Municipality and Water Resources
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Adil Alqasmi
Title:   Deputy Director  
Telephone/ Fax:   +968 24692567
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Postal Code:  
Country:   Oman

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