It is an undisputed fact that unless the consumer of services has some preconceived expectations and unless he doesn’t settle for anything below his pre-decided benchmarks, there isn’t any motivation for the service providers to improve. Today is the era of the survival of the fittest where each private enterprise aims to stand up to the consumers expectations by connecting with them at the ground level and building a close connection with it’s consumers in order to identify their desires backed by the purchasing power, broadly termed as ‘Demand.’
A similar approach is now being adopted by the government of the present era to survive over the opposition and hence is now being more accountable and transparent in it’s functions. In order to remove the corruption remarks over the parties in rule, the government is now moving towards digital platforms for distributing subsidies, filing consumer complaints, RTI Applications etc. One of such mechanism discussed in this article is Citizen Charters.
The concept of Citizen’s Charter enshrines the trust between the service provider and its users. The concept was first started and implemented in the United Kingdom by the Conservative Government of John Major in 1991 as a national programme with the aim to continuously improve the quality of public services for the people of the country so that these services respond to the needs and wishes of the users. The programme was re-launched in 1998 by the Labour Government of Tony Blair which rechristened it “Services First”.
Citizen charters are a very important and useful tool in the hands of the stake holders and the government which provides for information related to a particular organization for eg. Heathcare, sanitation, education departments or the progress related to an infrastructure project of the government and also provides for an effective mechanism for grievance redressal. Such charters are now available on the online portals of various departments of the government for eg. Citizen charter for education is available on the portal of Human Resource Management.
India With the unanimous approval of the Action-Plan in the Chief Ministers’ conference, the government of India decided to adopt Citizen’s Charter in all the government and public sector undertakings. The Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances (DARPG) was given the responsibility to popularize the charters in governance.
ELEMENTS OF A CITIZEN CHARTER
- Vision and Mission Statements
- Details of clients
- Details of business transacted by the organization
- Details of services provided to each client group
- Details of grievance redressal mechanism and how to access it (A sample draft of the grievance redressal form is given below)
All staff will extend courteous and helpful service. If you have any grievances with respect to the delivery of the above standards you are welcome to register your grievances with the following officers:
We have also created a website for registering grievances at_____________________
, and you are welcome to use this facility. We will acknowledge all grievances within ________________days and will communicate a final reply on the action taken within days
- Expectations from the clients( Sample Draft given below)
We welcome suggestions from our users.
We conduct polls____________________
We hold periodic meetings with users/user representatives. If you wish to be associated with this, please contact at .____________________
Please also enter your details at our website , indicating your willingness to be available for consultation or survey on the points listed in the Charter.
- Information about Right to Information
IMPLEMENTATION AND EVALUATION OF CITIZEN CHARTERS
Organisational Barrier: One of the organizational barrier faced in the success of such charters was, the lack of proper training of the employees and a general perception among them as to frame such charters as mere formality due to the directions coming from the top. The shuffling of the employees at the crucial stages of draft of the charters affected the efficiency of the charters.
Procedural Barriers: Sometimes the procedure prescribed in the charters were too strenuous which made the charters unrealistic.
Political and Bureaucratic factors: The fact of huge resistance to transparency and accountability to the resistance from these people.
An evaluation of the Citizen’s Charters of various government agencies was carried out by DARPG and Consumer Coordination Council, New Delhi, an NGO, in October 1998.
A brief questionnaire was circulated to all Ministries/Departments and State Governments/Union Territories to enable them to undertake an in-house evaluation of their Citizen’s Charters. These organisations were also advised to undertake external evaluations, preferably through NGOs. During the Year 2002-03, DARPG engaged a professional agency to develop a standardised model for internal and external evaluation of Citizen’s Charters in a more effective, quantifiable and objective manner. This agency also carried out evaluation of implementation of Charters in 5 Central Government Organisations and 15 Departments/Organisations of States of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. This Agency was also required to suggest methods for increasing awareness, both within the organisation and among the users, and to suggest possible methods for orientation of management and the staff in the task of formulating and deploying Charters.
The major findings of the evaluation carried out by the agency, as stated in it’s report were:-
(i) In majority of cases Charters were not formulated through a consultative process;
(ii) By and large service providers are not familiar with the philosophy, goals and main features of the Charter;
(iii) In none of the departments evaluated, had adequate publicity been given to the Charters. In most Departments, the Charters were only in the early stages of implementation;
(iv) No funds were specifically earmarked for awareness generation on Citizen’s Charter or for orientation of the staff on various components of the Charter.
Further, the key recommendations in the report, inter alia, stressed upon:-
(i) The need for citizens and staff to be consulted at every stage of formulation of the Charter;
(ii) Orientation of staff about the salient features and goals/objectives of the Charter; vision and mission statement of the department; and skills such as team building, problem solving, handling of grievances and communication skills;
(iii) The need for creation of database on consumer grievances and redress;
(iv) The need for wider publicity of the Charter through print media, posters, banners, leaflets, handbills, brochures, local newspapers etc. and also through electronic media;
(v) Earmarking of specific budgets for awareness generation and orientation of staff, and
(vi) Replication of best practices in this field.
For the success of citizen charters, it is required that firstly, the charters are effective. Effective CCs have the herein stated characteristics, including clear and simple language; realistic and measurable performance standards; a dedicated grievance redress mechanism; and an effective public relations strategy to increase users’ awareness about the CC. If designed and implemented correctly, CCs have the potential to foster greater public satisfaction with a government’s performance.
Secondly, manpower shall be well trained and motivated and shall adopt efficient means to make people aware of the existence of the platform and to attain some inputs regarding improvement of accountability through such platforms.
Today, Citizen charters form a very important part of Public Administration as it is the best way in which the citizens can be informed of the services they shall receive and at the same time give their feedbacks to let the service providers improve. However, it is observed that framing of effective charters is also an arduous task as it should be prepared in stages and such stages shall take into account all the important heads as mentioned above, so that it acts as an effective medium of information dissemination and receiving from it’s service consumers.At the same time, citizens are required to participate by filing feedback or grievance redressal forms for better administration.
ETHICS, INTEGRITY AND APTITUDE By Mr. M. Karthikeyan, McGraw Hill Education
EPITOME OF ETHICS, INTEGRITY AND APTITUDE By Mr. Ajit Kumar Jha, Disha Publication
Image from here
Also read: Reforming The Indian Bureaucracy