Problems arise for K-P’s problem-solving app
PESHAWAR: If you want to use the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government’s citizen portal to lodge a complaint online against any service delivery, you may want to be careful as your personal details may be leaked for others to see.
While the android-based application had been initially hailed for making the government more responsive towards the citizens, however, it is steadily pushing people away owing to its failure to keep users’ data confidential.
Rahman Ullah*— a citizen of Peshawar —landed into a dispute after he had lodged a few complaints about illegal charged parking in his vicinity.
The man he complained against, owing to lax security on the site, soon came knocking on Rahman’s door, threatening him with dire consequences for this complaints.
Intimidated by the threats delivered to his doorstep, Rahman bowed before the person against whom he had launched the complaint.
“The person [against whom I had lodged a complaint] managed to reach my home and pressurise me into withdrawing my complaints against him which I had filed through the Citizen Portal,” Rahman cried adding that the man had managed to acquire his national identity number from the faulty portal along with printing out the entire complaint which had been lodged on the portal.
Rahman added that the person he had complained against was charging people for parking vehicles in the area and would damage vehicles of those who refused to park their vehicles in his car park.
“I filed a complaint against him in February, but in vain, as no one paid any attention to the complaint,” Rahman added.
However, after a series of follow-up complaints, Rahman finally received a response from the PMRU during Ramazan that his complaint had been forwarded to the relevant police department via the Home and Tribal Affairs Department.
But Rahman claimed that instead of contacting him for further details, the police allegedly told the man about the complaint lodged against him.
“Yesterday, we reached a compromise in our area police station and I withdrew my complaint against that man since I could no longer face him,” Rahman conceded, defeat writ large on his face.
“The police told the man about the complaint and he used the portal to get a printout of the complaint which bore my identity card number and name,” he complained.
K-P government’s Performance Management and Reforms Unit (PMRU), a cell established by the K-P chief secretary, had set up the portal for improving the performance of all tiers of the government.
Rahman said that he got to know about the portal through a post on social media. He subsequently downloaded the app and lodged his first complaint since he did not want to make direct contact with the man.
“My friends praised its security policy, but my experience was quite bad as I landed into a problem,” he said suggesting the government should secure information about the complainants and speed up action on the complaints lodged.
Adil Raza, a deputy coordinator at the PMRU, said that the PMRU has no such system which would share details of complainants with the public.
“The Deputy Commissioner’s office and the police have access to the complainants’ data and the portal only keeps the name, CNIC and the cell number of the complainant,” he said giving an impression that the information would be shared by the police as they have the access to the information.
Raza added that when they first started the application, they kept information about the complainants confidential. But soon, he said, they started receiving requests from different government departments asking for access to data of the complainants.
“They (government departments) said they were facing problems in locating the areas which were mentioned in the complaints, and hence they wanted access to names, cell phone numbers of complainants through which they can reach the exact location of the problem and resolve the issue,” the PMRU official said.
Subsequently, all government departments were provided access to citizen’s data. However, soon problems in the problem-solving application started to arise with numerous cases of data misuse.
“Some people were trying to pressurise complainants into lodging complaints against their departments,” he explained, noting that it again prompted them to restrict access to data.
However, departments soon sent requests for access to data. However, access was only restricted to the deputy commissioner’s office and the police department.
Regarding Rahman’s case, Raza denied that PMRU shared his, or anyone’s data, with unauthorised personnel.
*Name of changed to protect identity