You would think that with the Internet and digital communications, it would make government more accessible, efficient, and accountable.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
When is the last time you were able to get a government employee on the phone? When was the last time a government worker timely answered their phone?
How easy is it to determine who works where in government agencies, how to communicate with them and what their responsibilities are? Why are U.S. Government home web pages not uniform?
How many recordings must you endure before you can speak with a public employee?
These are just a few of the more annoying questions of fact that have thwarted citizens from seeking information, service, and accountability from public servants.
The impersonal nature of digital telephone systems and Internet webpages has made government more hidden and harder to navigate. Employees are empowered to keep the public at a distance by suppressing personal communication.
Today, personal communications are the last resort. And, even when you do get to a person — the next game played is the passing of the buck. The run around is worse today then it has ever been. Don’t take my word for it — just pick your favorite agency and attempt to reach an office — any office.
Then try to figure out the staffing and contacts for that agency or office on their webpage.
The U.S. government needs a complete overhaul in technology, information and training to make it more user and consumer friendly. To do this it will be necessary to pass a bill that I will call, “The Uniform Government Consumer Information and Accountability Act," (UGCIAA).
Some of the act's main points should be:
- All government agency Internet home pages must be uniform in look, information and navigation. This would allow consumers to seamlessly navigate from agency to agency with ease and efficiency.
- All government agencies shall contain within their Internet Web sites: A uniform organizational chart of every department and every employee with the ability to search for an employee by name or department; a list of all employees by name, title, address, email, phone number, and resume.
- All agency websites must be updated daily with personnel changes and information.
- All government employees as a condition of employment must be trained with regard to their obligations under the UGCIAA and thereafter must attend biannual training sessions as a prerequisite of continued employment.
- Establish a consumers “Bill of Rights” with regard to contact with the U.S. Government. Consumers shall have the right to make same day timely personal contact in person, by phone or email with desired and identified government employee; consumers shall have the right to be treated with consideration and respect by every government employee under all circumstances.
- An environment of mutual respect is to be the goal of every contact; consumers shall have the right to receive accurate, timely, and easily read and understood information they are seeking and assistance as needed.
- Every government department shall establish a Consumer Assistance Program to insure compliance with the UGCIAA; every government department at every level within shall name a compliance officer with regard to the UGCIAA.
- Consumers shall have the right to contact and file a uniform grievance with the department compliance officer and shall receive timely written adjudication of such grievance; every government agency at every level must publish quarterly on its Internet site and to the Committees of jurisdiction of the House and Senate the metrics of compliance with the UGCIAA including but not limited to the number and types complaints made by consumers and to which departments and personnel.
- Consumers shall be entitled to inspect every consumer review of every department and named personnel by accessing a “review page” on the agency’s home Web page. Every review will identify the employee, their title and contact information, the consumer will respond to a series of objective questions as well as a the opportunity for subjective comments by the consumer. Thereafter the employee and or superior will have the opportunity to respond. The consumer shall have the right to have their review remain confidential. If a consumer waives their right of privacy – the review will be published on the agency’s Internet Web site for the public to inspect.
- Employees shall be encouraged to answer their phones while at their desks and employ voicemail only when they are otherwise engaged or away from their desks. Consumer telephone contacts, emails, and regular mail shall be answered within one business day of received contact.
- Consumers shall have the immediate option to opt out of electronic prompts on telephone calls in favor of person-to-person communications.
- A consideration for continued employment, advancement, and bonus will be a satisfactory UGCIAA metric of compliance by rating.
These rules should also apply to Congress with the same force and effect as with the executive and judicial branches of government.
Technology is supposed to improve our lives — not make them more difficult. Government must be responsive to the people through technology and not use technology to distance it from them.
Now is the time for consumers to demand their lawmakers act to insure a more open, transparent, accessible, and efficient government. And, now is the time for candidates for for federal, state and local elections to address these failures.
Bradley A. Blakeman served as deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001-04. He is currently a professor of politics and public policy at Georgetown University and a frequent contributor to Fox News Opinion. Read more reports from Bradley Blakeman — Click Here Now.
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