Pakistan is a vertical country. Many of its army and civil administration posts are nestled in the highest mountains in the world, including Nanga Prabat, Godvin Austin, and K2, also known as the “killer mountain,” which is higher than 7000 meters.
Part of the Himalayan range spanning five nations, conditions in Pakistan’s peaks are among the most inhospitable in the world.
“Delivering payroll is not an easy task,” says Shagufta Khanum, Controller General for the Government of Pakistan. “We use helicopters and mules to deliver the salaries of soldiers based up there. There are no banks or mobile reception up there, so people really depend on us to deliver their money on time.”
The Controller General’s organization is Pakistan’s main government agency for managing and disbursing government funds. Her signature appears on the paychecks of 24 million government employees and military personnel as well as 2.2 million pensioners.
But wherever there’s money, there’s also the potential for fraud and misuse. And so Shagufta Khanum is also in charge of efforts meant to impose public accountability and transparency on Pakistan’s sprawling government bureaucracy. Through the Parliamentary Oversight, her organization is expected to bring about improvements in the financial discipline and internal control environment by minimizing the possibility of waste and fraud.
“People work very hard to make a living, and when they retire, they live frugally on their pensions. We believe it is their right to have full transparency regarding their money,” she explains. “How much did I pay into the system, and how much am I getting out of it? How much interest am I paying on my government loan? What is the government doing with our tax money? People want quick answers to these questions.”
A Lifetime of Service
With a career spanning 36 years, Shagufta Khanum is deeply committed to serving the public. When she was a young girl her father told her, “Whatever you do, be sincere, then you will do it well.” She has followed that advice ever since.
In Pakistan women are present at all levels of government and business. “We are a developing nation,” she says with a smile. “We got off to a bit of a slow start with our digital transformation, but we are in the midst of the journey now. We need technology for the scope of our work. Without it we would be left behind.”
To facilitate their journey, the Government of Pakistan is using a new dashboard, built on SAP BusinessObjects solutions powered by SAP BW/4HANA running on SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud. This is one of the largest SAP-based public sector implementations of a management integration systems (MIS) in the world. The budgets and financial reports of federal, provincial, and district tiers of the Government are processed through the Financial Accounting & Budgeting (FABs) department. Monthly salaries and pensions of nearly 3 million public sector employees and pensioners are also processed through FABS.
Irshad Ahmed Kaleemi, Khanum’s deputy with decades of experience, was the lead negotiator for a loan from the World Bank to help finance Pakistan’s pension fund management project.
“Automating payroll for millions of people and implementing online billing, electronic fund transfers, and other financial processes will all help digitize the country’s economy,” says Kaleemi. “The new dashboard being developed with the assistance of SAP will help us make timely decisions based on secure, real-time data.”
Kaleemi goes on to explain that bringing Pakistan’s accounting system online under the canopy of the World Bank Project will help compliance with regulations and provide full transparency on all budgetary allocations. “Digitizing public services helps reduce costs and improve operational performance,” he says.” Now it will be easier to collaborate across government organizations, and everyone will have the same view of the data.”
Shagufta Khanum says that SAP is like family. The relationship goes back many years. “Digital transformation is top of mind for enterprises as competition is a key driving factor. But it is equally important for governments,” says Adaire Fox-Martin, member of the Executive Board of SAP SE, responsible for Customer Operations. She helped negotiated SAP’s very first deal with Pakistan five years ago.
“Governments have huge responsibilities to the public at large, delivering education, healthcare, and financial stability,” she adds. “Pakistan has a young population. The government must act now to ensure they have the right skills for the digital economy of the future. Accurate data, for example, is vital when it comes to allocating scarce funds in a responsible manner.”
A joint study by McKinsey and Oxford University found that digital transformations are more challenging to implement in the public sector than in the private sector. Governments like Pakistan’s that use Big Data and analytics to improve decision making, however, are the ones that benefit most.
“By taking the right steps now,” says Shagufta Khanum, “we will become a fully digitized organization to better meet the challenges of the future. Inshallah.”
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Images via screenshots.