Citizens’ Charters is a response to quest for solving the problems which a citizen encounters, day in and day out, while dealing with organisations providing public services. Citizen charter is one of the prerequisite for the Good Governance.
History in short:
- The concept was first articulated and implemented by British Prime Minister John Major in 1991 as a national programme with a simple 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 relaunched in 1998 by British Prime Minister Tony Blair which rechristened it Services First.
- Over the years India has made significant progress in the field of economic development. This along with increase in literacy rate has made Indian citizens aware of their rights.
- It was in this climate, Conference of Chief Ministers was held in 1997 under the chairmanship of Prime Minister. In this conference as ‘Action Plan for Effective and Responsive Government’ at the centre and state was adopted.
- One of the major decisions at the conference was that the central and state governments would formulate Citizens’ Charter, starting with those sectors that has large public interface.
Guidelines for Citizen Charter:
Citizens’ Charter-Basic Framework :
Citizens’ Charter contains detailed and elaborate statements which include:
- Services which an organisation might offer
- Services standards and remedies
- Actual services standards
- Principles and norms under which services are offered
- Details of possible areas of grievances and grievance redressal mechanisms
- Set up machinery for system audit, performance, monitoring and evaluation
- Make provision for independent scrutiny of the agency’s performance.
Principles of Citizens’ Charter:
The Citizens’ Charter should be based on following major principles-
- Standards: The charter should follow standards by setting, monitoring and publication of explicit standards for the services that individual users can reasonably expect. Besides there should be publication of actual performance against standards defined.
- Information and openness: The charter should available in full, accurate and plain language. It should detail about performance, responsibilities etc.
- Choice and consultation: The public sector should provide choices wherever practical. There should be regular and systematic consultation with those who use the services. Users’ view about the services and their priorities are to be taken into account for the final decision on standards.
- Courtesy and helpfulness: The services should be available equally to all who are entitled. Public servants should be courteous, helpful, cordial, cooperative, polite and well mannered instead of callous, harsh, indifferent, rude and hostile.
- Putting thing right: The government should accept the mistakes and failures and work better for the future. There should be sincere efforts to make things work effectively.
- Value for money: The charter should promote for efficient and economic delivery of public services within the limits of what nation can afford. There should be independent validation of performance against standard.
- STEP 1 – Identification of citizens based on impact and influence
- STEP 2 – Policy formulation geared towards fulfiling citizens expectations
- STEP 3 – Action Framework for providing products/services
- STEP 4 – Feedback mechanism for measuring satisfaction with service rendered and remedial action
- Quality: Citizens’ charter strives to improve the quality of services offered by the departments and required by the public. Example – Information requested through RTI is provided in digital format in well readable format.
- Choice: Government should offer various choices to people, so that people can avail services according to their priorities and choices. Example: People are given choices to get the LPG connection through cylinder or piped connection.
- Standards: Citizens’ charter specifies the standards for various services which makes people aware of the services to be offered by the government. Example: Water quality standards offered by various private agencies and public agency are published, which allows people to select service standards according to their needs.
- Value: Services are offered by government from tax payers money. Government strives to strike the balance between spend the amount judiciously and improve the satisfaction of people. Example: Information provided through RTI is given in digital format, this saves the tax payers money as less money is spent on papers. This also improves satisfaction of people as the information is available on timely manner.
- Accountability: Citizens’ Charter enforces the accountability of the department as citizens are aware of the service standards and actual performance the services.
- Transparency: Citizens’ Charter follows various rules, procedures and schemes to make avail the services to the people. Any deviation from these gives the opportunity to people to seek the grievance redressal from the depart concerned. Example: Jan Soochana Portal of Rajasthan government.
Obstacles in Citizens’ Charters:
A study sponsored by the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances on evaluation of the Citizens’ Charters was carried out by the Indian Institute of Public Administration in 2008. The observations/findings of this study are:
- Citizens’ charters have still not been adopted by all Ministries/Departments.
- There was lack of precision on standards and commitments in several cases.
- There is often little interest shown by the organisations in adhering to their charter.
- On the communications front, the charter programme has been throttled on account of poorplanning and resource commitment for publicity.
- In some cases, the charters have become a one-time exercise, frozen in time.
- There was general lack of accountability and review mechanisms.
- The charters were devoid of participative mechanisms for effective performance.
- The standards or time norms of services mentioned the citizens’ charter were either too negligent or too tight and impractical and created impractical impressions on clients.
- Lack of awareness and knowledge and inadequate publicity, hence loss of trust among service seekers.
- The general perception of the organisation which formulated the the citizens’ charter was that the exercise was to be performed because there was a direction from the top. The consultation process was minimal or largely absent.
- Hierarchy gap between the Officers and the Operative Staff.
- Staff is not prepared to shoulder the responsibility due to lack of motivation and accountability.
- Different mind-sets of officers and the Staff- Insensitiveness on the part of the Supervisors and the Staff because they are yet to be sensitised. 50% of the users have confirmed that the behaviour of the staff is non-attentive.
Recommendations of Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA):
- Need for citizens and staffto be consulted at every stage of formulation
- Orientation of staffabout the salient features and goals/ objectives of the Charter
- Need for creation of database on consumer grievances and redress.
- Need for wider publicity of the Charter
- Earmarking of specific budgets for awareness generation
- Replication of best practices in this fi
Recommendations of Second ARC Report:
- One size does not fit all.
- Citizens’ Charter should be prepared for each independent unit under the overall umbrella of theorganisations’ charter.
- Wide consultation which include Civil Society in the process.
- Firm commitments to be made, Redressal mechanism in case of default.
- Periodic evaluation of Citizens’ Charters.
- Benchmark using end-user feedback, Hold officers accountable for results.
- Charter Mark Scheme and recognition and honouring of individuals for their excellence and meritorious performance, introduction of group incentives scheme and monetary incentives will help achievement of goals of Citizens’ Charter.