Citizen Charters and Governance: Various Topics for GS Paper-II

Citizen’s charter is a document representing the systematic effort taken by public agencies/organizations to focus on the commitment made by them towards their citizens/clients in fulfilling their needs.

Six principles of citizens charter

  • Published standards
  • Openness and information
  • Choice and consultation
  • Courtesy and helpfulness
  • Grievance redressal
  • Value for money

Citizen’s Charter helps to solve the problems faced by the citizens, day in and day out, while dealing with public agencies and organizations. The Citizen’s charter also includes the expectations of the Organizations/public agencies from the citizen/client for fulfilling the commitments made by them.

Citizens’ Charters are based on the premise that the Citizen is “King” and government organizations exist to serve the citizens. The formulation of citizen’s charter in India first commenced in 1996. ­Since then, Scheme of Citizens’ Charters was reviewed several times and ultimately led to the finalization of Quality Management System Standard – IS 15700: 2005 and also to the new assessment-improvement model ‘Sevottam’.

Citizen’s expectations

  • Reliability (consistency in performance)
  • Responsiveness (timely service)
  • Credibility (having customer interest at heart)
  • Empathy (attention to customer’s needs)
  • Courtesy and care (physical evidence of willingness to serve)

Elements of a good charter

  • Focus on customer requirements
  • Simple language
  • Service standards
  • Effective remedies
  • Training
  • Delegation
  • Feedback mechanism
  • Close monitoring
  • Periodic review

Evolution of the concept of citizen’s charter

International scenario

The concept of Citizen’s Charter was first implemented in the United Kingdom in 1991. It was first implemented by the Conservative Government of John Major as a national programme with an aim to improve the quality of public services enjoyed by the people of the country. The programme was again relaunched by the Labour Government under Tony Blair with a rechristened name of “Services First” in 1998. The initiative earned considerable interest around the world and many countries came up with similar programmes.

CountryName of the initiativeYear
BelgiumPublic Service Users’ Charter1992
FranceService Charter1992
SpainThe Quality Observatory1992
MalaysiaClient Charter1993
PortugalThe Quality Charter in Public Services1993
JamaicaCitizen’s Charter1994
CanadaService Standards Initiative1995
IndiaCitizen’s Charter1997
AustraliaService Charter1997

Indian Scenario

Over the years, the advancement achieved in literacy rate coupled with a robust economic development made Indian citizens increasingly aware of their rights and made them to expect the administration to respond to their demands. To cater to the rising ambitions, an Action Plan for Effective and Responsive Government was adopted both at the Centre and State levels at a Conference of Chief Ministers of various States and Union Territories held on 24 May, 1997 in New Delhi. The following decisions were taken at the conference:

  • It was decided that the Central and State Governments would formulate Citizen’s Charters beginning with those sectors having a large public interface like Railways, Telecom, Public Distribution Systems, Posts etc.
  • It was decided to include in the Charter among others the avenues of standards of service, reasonable time limits for service delivery, grievance redressal mechanisms and a provision for independent scrutiny with the involvement of citizen and consumer groups.
  • It was decided that the public accountability should be interpreted in a broader sense to include public satisfaction and responsive delivery of public services.

To frame the charters, the Central and State Governments were advised to constitute a task force with representations from various stake holders like users, senior management and the cutting edge staff etc. The Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG) took the initiative of coordinating, formulating and operationalizing Citizen’s Charters. It issued the guidelines and a list of do’s and don’ts to be followed by the various government departments/organisations to bring out focused and effective charters. The Charters were expected to include the following elements.

Components of citizen’s 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
  • Expectations form the clients

Roughly, the adaptation of UK model, the additional component of ‘expectations form the clients’ was added to the Indian version of Citizen’s Charter. Apart from that involvement of citizen groups, consumer organizations and other stakeholders was highly emphasized. Also, regular monitoring, review and evaluation of charters were enjoined.

As of February 2008, 115 Citizen’s Charters had been formulated by the Central Government Ministries/Departments/Organisations and 650 Charters by various agencies of State Governments & Administrations of Union Territories.

Website

A comprehensive website on Citizen’s Charters in Government of India (www.goicharters.nic.in) was developed and launched by the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances in 2002. This website contains the Citizen’s Charters of various Ministries/Departments/Organizations.

The citizen’s charter on successful implementation was expected to have the following features:

  • Improved service delivery
  • Greater responsiveness of officials towards the public
  • Greater public satisfaction with the services offered.

Problems faced in implementing the citizen’s charter

Despite all efforts, the following problems emanated from the implementation of citizen’s charter and a very little evidence showed that there was an improvement in public service:

  • The mismatch in aligning public service delivery with citizen’s expectations.
  • The organizations looked at the exercise of formulating Citizen’s Charter as a direction from above. It became one of the routine activities and lacked focus.
  • The employees responsible for implementing the charter were lacking training and orientation.
  • Sometimes, the initiative got hampered due to the transfer/reshuffle of concerned officers responsible for the implementation of citizen’s charter.
  • Awareness campaign to sensitize the citizens/clients was not adequate.
  • In some cases, unrealistic standards/norms of service which were either too lax or too tight were set. It created very unfavourable impression on the clients.
  • There was no continuous improvement and assessment of performance.
  • There was no benchmarking of quality of service delivery and grading them on performance.

Sevottam

A certification scheme called Sevottam was launched to address some of the shortcomings of the citizen’s charter. It provides for the award of the Sevottam symbol of excellence to public service organizations that implements and complies a set of management system requirements. It offers a systematic way to identify weaknesses in specific areas and correct them through systemic changes and process re-engineering.

Obtaining a Sevottam symbol of excellence requires the following:

  • Successful implementation of Citizen’s Charters
  • Service Delivery Preparedness and achievement of Results
  • Sound Public Grievance Redress Mechanism.

With the adoption of Sevottam scheme, India earned the pride of becoming the first country in the world to publish a requirement standard for quality management of public service delivery. Citizen’s charter is a major compliance criterion for being considered for Sevottam. The other standards include customer focus; internal and external communication requirements; documentation requirements; mechanism to implement, monitor, measure and improve delivery etc.

Quality Management System Standard – IS 15700: 2005

Based on the objectives of Sevottam, the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) developed a new quality management system standard- IS 15700:2005. The draft standard was prepared by a panel of 15 experts from 11 organizations including government departments, industry associations, public sector undertakings, DARPG, Tata Consultancy Services, Quality Council of India, Bureau of International Standards etc.

Measures for effective implementation of citizen’s charter

  • An effective awareness campaigns amongst all the stakeholders has to be designed and delivered innovatively and effectively.
  • The mere issuance of citizen’s charter will not alter the mindset of people and staff overnight. So, regular sensitization programmes and persistent efforts are required to effect attitudinal changes.
  • The charters should be subjected to both internal and external monitoring, evaluation and review in all the organizations for effecting improvements.
  • The charter should also be provided with a necessary statutory backing by passing an appropriate legislation as the Citizen’s Charter Bill, 2011 got lapsed with the dissolution of Lok Sabha.

Recommendations of 2nd ARC

The following are the recommendations of ARC for making Citizen’s Charters more effective:

  • One size does not fit all.
  • Citizen’s Charter should be prepared for each independent unit under the overall umbrella of the organization’s charter.
  • Wide consultation which include civil society in the process.
  • Firm commitments to be made.
  • Internal process and structure should be reformed to meet the commitments given in the Charter.
  • Redress mechanism is case of default vii. Periodic evaluation of Citizen’s Charters.
  • Benchmark using end-user feedback.
  • Hold officers accountable for results.
The ARC Seven Step Model for Citizen Centricity
  • Define all services which you provide and identify your clients
  • Set standards and norms for each service
  • Develop capability to meet the set standards
  • Perform to achieve the standards
  • Monitor performance against the set standards.
  • Evaluate the impact through an independent mechanism
  • Continuous improvement based on monitoring and evaluation of results

Significance of Citizen’s Charter

  • It will make government more accountable, responsive and effective. It will enable citizens to demand accountability.
  • Government services and programmes will become more sustainable and effective.
  • Poor and marginalized will be able to access services equitably which will improve their lives. They will be able to influence public policy and service delivery.
  • Citizens are no longer considered as mere beneficiaries. Citizens will be seen as equal stake holders in the development projects.
  • Robust institutional mechanisms for the proper implementation of laws and delivery of goods and laws.
  • Effective redressal of grievances.
  • Corruption and red tapism will decrease.

Firstly, it enables citizens to demand accountability and helps to make government more responsive, efficient and effective. Secondly, it helps to make government programmes and services more effective and sustainable. Thirdly, it enables the poor and marginalized to influence public policy and service delivery to improve their lives. Fourthly, it helps to promote healthy, grassroots democracy.

With this, citizens are no longer considered mere beneficiaries of the fruits of technical expertise and knowhow from externally guided development programmes. Instead, they are seen as equal stake holders in the development process. In fact, popular participation as a democratic right that should be promoted in all development projects, has increasingly come to be accepted as an objective and not just as a means to development.

Citizens Charter Bill, 2011

The Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, 2011 or simply Citizens Charter Bill was tabled in the Lok Sabha in 2011. The bill aimed to provide every citizen the right to time-bound delivery of goods and services and to confer them with a grievance redressal mechanism. The bill had provisions for making publishing of citizen’s charter mandatory for all the public authority. However, the bill got lapsed due to the dissolution of 15th Lok Sabha.

Information and Facilitation Counters (IFCs)

IFCs have been set up by selected Central Government organisations to provide information to citizens about their programmes/schemes, rules and procedures etc. It acts as a nodal point for grievance redressal. It is considered as a physical manifestation of Citizen’s Charter.

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