When the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA) penalised the Bank of Bhutan, not many believed that such a thing could happen. This is because service providers are hardly questioned or penalised, forget holding them accountable.

The bank is negotiating the monetary fine of Nu 6.2 million imposed for the system failure that affected the banks’ services for about three days earlier this month. The country’s oldest and biggest bank had its online and offline system out of service affecting business and everyday transactions.

While many called the bank to complain, others resorted to social media to vent their frustrations about not being able to access basic online services like withdrawing or paying using the bank’s applications. When the ‘system’ was restored, they forgot the inconvenience caused. However, the central bank did not and penalised the bank.

Should service providers be penalised? The recent incident opens an opportunity for discourse. Many feel it was a good decision by the central bank not because BOB was penalised but because it should set a new trend or a good practice of improving service delivery.

Technology has now become a part of life. With a lot of government systems moving online to enhance efficiency and timely delivery of services, even farmers are forced to live and adjust to the changes. The beauty of applications has made access to services easier. These had forced many, including the computer illiterate, to ride on the technology and changes.

The problem is when services are unreliable even after moving to online platforms. Technological glitches happen, it is the frequency of the disruptions that is still a problem. “System down” is the most common excuse with service providers.

Some disruptions have been costly. And service providers get away without any accountability. Blaming their system (software and hardware) in many cases is accepted. This should change. Consumers or service users are becoming aware of the implications of the disruptions in the services. They are not bothered about what caused them unless, perhaps, it is from natural disasters.

What if expensive machinery are damaged because of fluctuations in electricity? What if a business is lost because of a malfunction in an online application?  What if a life is lost because emergency lines are down? There are many questions. Quite often, early warnings or information are not relayed on to prepare people.

Expectations are high with a lot of transformations happening in the government and other agencies. Improved and quality service delivery is one of them.

The BoB incident should be the starting point in fixing accountability of penalizing officials,  organisations, agencies and institutions for failing and costing others.

How to go about this needs to be discussed. A start has been made. Many will be on their toes. But we also need rules and regulations, policies and legislation to resolve these issues.

The winter session of Parliament is around the corner. We could start the discourse and see if our lawmakers and service providers would take it up.