Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) underscored three aspirations for the national budget fiscal year 2023/2024 with an allocation of $136 million.
At the 19th Legislative Council (LegCo) Session, Minister of Home Affairs Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Hj Ahmaddin Hj Abdul Rahman said that the goals are Security and Well-Being; Urban and District Development Transformation and Empowering Community Development and; Excellent Administration and Quality Service Delivery.
The first objective focused on boosting security and well-being by boosting implementation ability and law enforcement via policy strengthening, infrastructure improvement and expanding the use of technology while ensuring asset readiness and active engagement with grassroots leaders.
Secondly is to emphasise sustainable and resilient urban and regional development through the active involvement of grassroots leaders and the community in ensuring infrastructure availability of infrastructure, increasing the use of technology, highlighting environmental cleanliness and conducive community development ecosystem to help empower the community who take on self-development initiatives.
The third goal is aimed at providing transparent, accountable, and prudent services by implementing policy reforms, using technology and increasing capacity and competence with the ‘Whole of Government’ and ‘Whole of Nation’ approaches.
Immigration and National Registration
“There are several initiatives that have been implemented and ongoing with hopes to further better the well-being of citizens and residents of the country. One of them is the launch of the Immigration and National Registration System (INRS) in phases,” said the minister.
The INRS includes Border Management System and Identification Card System with other applications set to be introduced soon such as visa and passes, birth and death, citizenship and more.
The home affairs minister further said that to assist with controlling and monitoring the entry of foreigners and tourists into the country, the Border Management System started operating at the Brunei International Airport on 14 March 2022 which was also extended to other border control posts nationwide.
He also mentioned that the E-arrival Card application has also been introduced on 9 March 2023 to replace the physical embarkation and disembarkation card.
“With the implementation of the system, not only it eases exit and entry processes but also supports the Immigration and National Registration Department to collect data to relevant parties for analysis, planning and policy formulation, among others,” said the minister.
Moreover, Identification Card Registration and the issue of new identification cards were also introduced in mid-2022.
The new identification cards, he added, have a high-security design and features equipped with encryption and the latest technology.
“Insha-Allah, this will realise the Digital ID project under the Digital Economy Masterplan which is a collaboration with Ministry of Transport and Info-Communications,” said YB Dato Hj Ahmaddin.
Moreover, the National Labour Management System (NLMS) under Labour Department is slated to be fully utilised on 1 April 2023, offering more transparent and efficient services such as Foreign Workers Licence (LPA) and Domestic Services Licence (LPD) applications that are accessible online.
The Labour Department also introduced the Service Fee Rate for hiring domestic workers (housekeepers, gardeners and personal drivers) not exceeding $2,000 per foreign worker.
“This is implemented to ensure that service fees charged by employment agencies for the recruitment of domestic workers is controlled,” added the minister.
The department at the same time acts as a mediator to resolve issues between employers and employees, said YB Dato Hj Ahmaddin.
“From 2020 to 2022, a total of 31 complaints have been received and 94 per cent (29 cases) have been completed,” he added.
Moreover, the department with Manpower Planning and Employment Council (MPEC) has and is currently planning and implementing strategies to secure employment including safeguarding the welfare and interests of job seekers among locals.
Prior to filling vacant positions in the private sector, said the minister, a confirmation from Job Center Brunei (JCB) is needed whether the positions cannot be met by locals before approving the Foreign Worker’s Licence by Labour Department.
“This concerted effort is to ensure locals are given priority to fill positions in the private sector in efforts to reduce the unemployment rate in the country,” said the minister.
Touching on Prisons Department in decreasing the recidivism rate among inmates, several programmes were introduced and continue to be implemented such as vocational skills training that includes carpentry, agriculture, cooking, and landscaping, preparing them to be ready when they are back into the community.
“I would like to stress that family and community support is important to help improve their identity, provide employment or support their business as a source of income as self-sustainability; and providing them with guidance and motivation to prevent them from committing an offence,” he said.
Products created by inmates under the INSAF initiative, added the home affairs minister, were sold to the public via expos and orders with hopes to be a source of income for them, further lessening their burden once they are out of confinement while looking for a job or self-employed.
Furthermore, the Prisons Department also opened participation from former convicts to programmes under the Supervisory Services handled by Reintegration Division with the Aftercare Committee (AFSA) along with other agencies.
“From 2018 until now, some 82 stakeholders participated in making the Aftercare Programme a success. This is a joint venture of the Prisons Department with 14 NGOs and 68 private companies to assist supervising buddies in community integration,” continued the minister.
For the control and security system at prison institutions, a budget allocation of $3.768 million has been approved to finance upgrading and building maintenance works in Maraburong Prison Phase 1 and Phase 3, and Jerudong Prison including the installation of a CCTV system.
*Fire and Rescue Department*
To ensure the readiness of infrastructure and assets in the Fire and Rescue Department, permission has also been obtained for the Lease of 30 Water Tender Type Fire Engines Ladder (WRL) as an effort to improve capabilities operation as well as the effectiveness of the deployment of fire engines and rescuers.
“InshaAllah in the FY 2023/2024, the repair for 800 fire hydrant units across the country will be implemented in phases to ensure infrastructure readiness in dealing with fire emergencies in every district,” said YB Dato Hj Ahmaddin.
Grassroot leaders and cottage industry
The Ministry of Home Affairs via the District Office Department has also advertised positions for penghulus and village heads and launched the voting process every week for selections.
This is an effort to implement the transformation of urban and district development through the active involvement of grassroots leaders.
“Alhamdulillah, so far 29 per cent of penghulu and 25 per cent of the village head positions have been filled,” said YB Dato Hj Ahmaddin.
To further empower the One Village One Product (1K1P) initiative, another 1K1P high-impact project is slated to be introduced with the cooperation from Ministry of Finance and Economy (MoFE) via one of the Government Link Companies (GLCs) and Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT) to produce better quality products with the potential to penetrate local and foreign markets.
Supporting Goal 2, for sustainable and resilient urban and regional development and ensuring the availability of infrastructure, some of the ministry’s initiative is to focus on the preparation and development of business plots.
“This includes stalls in all districts; maintenance of community and multipurpose halls; and road improvements that are often affected by floods to better villagers’ access. Alhamdulillah, an allocation of $18.8 million has been approved for road upgrades in Tutong, Belait and Temburong Districts,” said the minister.
The ministry is supportive towards empowering independent communities by providing space to do business to earn a living.
The TUNAS Marketplace project in collaboration with Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam (BIBD) not only targets 1K1P products, added the home affairs minister, but also includes graduates of the BIBD-SEED Programme; Consortium of Mualafpreneurs; and Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme participants.
“When enacting a policy and implementation or any initiative planned by this ministry, the contributing factors for the success are considered, paralleled with the ministry’s third aspiration which is ensuring competent human resources in addition to utilising technology for a quality service delivery,” said YB Dato Hj Ahmaddin.
He added: Therefore, the ministry is currently enacting the Human Resource Competency Framework (HRCF) involving everyone in the ministry and departments including grassroots leaders which, among other things, aims to improve the ability of human resources by identifying and reducing competency gaps through skills and capacity building programmes.”
The ministry and district office departments are planning to hold regular discussions with grassroots leaders for the exchange of ideas for the welfare of the community and the development of villages and mukims.
“I would like to extend my appreciation to all grassroots leaders including the Mukim and Village Consultative Councils for the mutual cooperation and assisting the ministry and the government in providing contributions of thoughts and energy for the welfare of the community,” said YB Dato Hj Ahmaddin.
Whole of Government, Whole of Nation
The “Whole of Government” and “Whole of Nation” approaches are well-emphasised in ensuring the governance of good service.
“For example, in overcoming the issue of building tax arrears, Municipal Department has collaborated with some other government agencies such as the Authority for Building Control and Construction Industry (ABCi); Land Department, Ministry of Development; Syariah Court Office, State Judiciary Department; and the Registry of Heirs, Supreme Court to ensure building owners to settle their overdue building tax,” said YB Dato Hj Ahmaddin.
Since the implementation of the initiative in phases, from August 2021 until 31 January 2023, a total of more than $10 million, which is 14.92 per cent of the total revenue arrears of $67 million has been collected.
While the revenue collection is from April 2022 until 31 January 2023, the Municipal Department has collected $4,922,856.89.
“To encourage and support a pro-business ecosystem in this country, the Ministry of Home Affairs will continue to study policies so that they are always relevant in any programmes or projects by the ministry towards achieving the Brunei Vision 2035,” said YB Dato Hj Ahmaddin.
THE BRUNEIAN | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN