What was supposed to be a meeting with top-level officials of the Social Security System for the presentation of the zero backlog program became something more when the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) witnessed violations of the Ease Of Doing Business (EODB) Act in the SSS Diliman, Quezon City Branch this week.
In a statement, ARTA said the meeting was in line with the agency’s weeklong event carrying the theme "Zero Backlog Policy, Paigtingin! 3-7-20, Laging Sundin!"
The event aims to promote the prescribed processing time in transacting with the government which is three days for simple transactions, seven days for complex transactions, and 20 days for highly technical transactions.
The meeting coincided with an on-the-ground inspection that ARTA Director-General Jeremiah Belgica and his staff conducted at the SSS Diliman, Quezon City Branch on March 4.
During the inspection, Belgica observed multiple violations of the EODB Act, corroborating reports of long queues forming outside the office, hours before it even opened.
Upon arrival, Belgica found that there was only an express lane for senior citizens, persons with disabilities, and pregnant women outside the office but none inside.
Some have been in line since the previous night, including an 83-year-old woman who had been at the government office since 9 p.m.
Many of those queueing at SSS Diliman said they were redirected from the SSS branches where they lived nearby, but when they arrived at the said office, they were also redirected to other branches.
The office was also found to be implementing a quota system. It likewise did not have its Citizen’s Charter displayed, which could have served as the public’s reference in the services being offered in the office and their corresponding requirements, processes, and fees.
Although there were kiosks that had facilities for online transactions, these were not functioning during the inspection. Some of the people waiting approached Belgica to complain about the nonfunctional or slow online facilities.
Some, particularly senior citizens, opted to go home instead because there was no available staff to assist them in their transactions.
SSS Diliman Branch Head Leo Danao and Vice President and Concurring Acting Head Johnsy Magundayao explained that they have yet to adjust to the influx of clients in their offices after Metro Manila was placed under Alert Level 1. They also explained that they have a shortage of available personnel.
However, Belgica said government agencies must adjust to provide the services that the Filipino people need and deserve.
"I think may kailangan tayong gawin doon sa fact na ang tao, kailangan pumila magdamag for a number (we have to do something about the fact that people have to line up the entire night just to get a number)," he said.
"We really have to do something about it. Kung kailangan natin ng additional na tao, additional na support, sabihin po natin sa main office (If we need more personnel or support, tell the main office)," he added.
During the one-on-one meeting, SSS Benefits Administration Division Vice President Normita Doctor said they will extend office hours until 7 p.m. and remain open on Saturdays for branches in Metro Manila to keep up with the demand for their services.
The ARTA chief said he will conduct another inspection at the said office in the following days to ensure that the red tape concerns of the public had been addressed.