When Nasouh Muhieddin Marzouqa
took charge of the Civil Status and Passports Department in 1991, Jordanians widely scorned the agency for the poor quality of its services. Processing times were wildly unpredictable, and citizens could wait as long as two years to get some kinds of identity documents. Delays disrupted lives, impeding access to government benefits and hindering travel planning. Facing long lines and rude employees, many citizens gladly paid middlemen to shepherd their applications through the grueling process. Department staffers, tenured under rigid civil service laws, lacked motivation to speed processes that were manual and labor intensive. People used connections and bribes to deal with the department. For the next five years, Marzouqa, a retired police officer, tackled these problems, overhauling the department’s highly centralized structure, eliminating unnecessary steps in document production and reorganizing offices. The department collected data on seasonal bulges in document demand and developed staff and training programs to deal with changing workloads. For the first time, Marzouqa incorporated the so-called national number, a unique number assigned to each citizen for social-security purposes, into document issuance and renewal procedures. By 1996, the time to get or renew any document had shortened consistently to a matter of hours. A trip to the department was no longer a test of endurance.
A separate policy note, “People and Machines—Building Operational Efficiency,” focuses on the department from 1996 to 2005 under Marzouqa’s successor, Awni Yarvas.