Citizen Charters

Citizen charter

What are Citizen Charters (CC)?

A public document that sets out basic information on the services provided, the standards of service that customers can expect from an organisation, and how to make complaints or suggestions for improvement. (OECD)

  •  A Citizen Charter is a document that represents a systematic effort to focus on the commitment of the Organisation towards its Citizens concerning Standard of Services, Information, Choice and Consultation, Non-discrimination and Accessibility, Grievance Redress, Courtesy and Value for Money.
  • The concept was first articulated and implemented in the United Kingdom by the Conservative Government of John Major in 1991 as a national Programme with a simple aim:
  • The Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG) of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Government of India, to provide more responsive and citizen-friendly governance, coordinates the efforts to formulate and operationalise Citizens’ Charters.
    •  was introduced to create a mechanism to ensure the timely delivery of goods and services to citizens.

Essential components of CC as per 2nd ARC

  • Vision and mission document of an organisation
  • Domain to the organisation
  • Citizen responsibility

Benefits of CC as per World Bank

  1. It enhances transparency and accountability
  2. It reduces opportunities for corruption and graft
  3. It increases the effectiveness and performance of the organisation
  4. It creates a way for both internal and external actors to objectively monitor service delivery performance
  5. It can increase the revenue of the government if it avails charged services

What are the Principles/standards of CC?

The concept of the Citizens’ Charter enshrines the trust between the service provider and its users. Six principles of the Citizens Charter movement as originally framed were: 

  • Quality – improving the quality of services
  • Choice – for the users wherever possible
  • Standards – specifying what to expect within a time frame
  • Value – for the taxpayers’ money
  • Accountability – of the service provider (individual as well as Organization)
  • Transparency – in rules, procedures, schemes and grievance redressal
  • Participative– Consult and involve

Features of ideal CC

  1. Realistic
  2. Measurable
  3. Concrete
  4. Resource linked
  5. Consultative
  6. Compensation

Nine Principles of service delivery adopted by the British government in 1998

  1. Set standards of service
  2. Be open and provide all information
  3. Consult and involve
  4. Encourage access and promotion of choice
  5. Treat all fairly
  6. Put things right when they go wrong
  7. Use resources effectively
  8. Innovate and improve
  9. Work with other providers.

Citizen Charter in India?

  • The DARPG initiated the task of coordinating, formulating and operationalising Citizens’ Charters.
    • Guidelines for formulating the Charters as well as a list of do’s and don’ts are communicated to various government departments/organisations to enable them to bring out focused and effective charters.
  • The Charters are expected to incorporate the following elements:
    • Vision and Mission Statement
    • Details of business transacted by the organisation
    • Details of clients
    • Details of services provided to each client group
    • Details of grievance redress mechanism and how to access it
    • Expectations from the clients
  • Preconditions for successful implementation of CC
    strong official support
  • Participation of stakeholders
  • Incentives and motivation for staff
  • Awareness about CC among both staff and people
  • Project-level monitoring and evaluation system to track progress.

CC Bill 2011 Every citizen is given the right to get time-bound delivery of goods and services. If not delivered, there will be a redressal mechanism. It makes it mandatory for every public authority to publish a CC within six months of the commencement of the act. It provides a format of CCList the details of goods and services provided by a public authority name of the person or agency responsible for providing goods or services. The time frame within which such goods and services are to be provided.The category of the people entitled to these goods and services.Details of the complaint redressal mechanism. Bill also provides for the establishment of a public grievance redressal commission at the central and state level. 

What are the Shortcomings of CC in India?

  • Devoid of Participative Mechanisms: In a majority of cases, CC is not formulated through a consultative process with cutting-edge staff who will finally implement it.
  • Poor Design and Content: There is a lack of meaningful and succinct CC and an absence of critical information that end-users need to hold agencies accountable.
  • Lack of Public Awareness: Only a small percentage of end-users are aware of the commitments made in the CC since effective efforts of communicating and educating the public about the standards of delivery promise have not been undertaken.
  • Charters are Rarely Updated: Make it a one-time exercise, frozen in time.
  • No Proper Consultation: End-users, civil society organizations and NGOs are not consulted when CCs are drafted.
    • Since a CC’s primary purpose is to make public service delivery more citizen-centric, consultation with stakeholders is a must.
  • Measurable Standards of Delivery are Rarely Defined: Making it difficult to assess whether the desired level of service has been achieved or not.
  • Lack of Interest: Little interest is shown by the organizations in adhering to their CC since there is no citizen-friendly mechanism to compensate the citizen if the organization defaults.
  • Uniformity in CC: Tendency to have a uniform CC for all offices under the parent organization. CCs have still not been adopted by all Ministries/Departments. This overlooks local issues.
  • Poor updation
  • Inadequate groundwork
  • Resistance to change
  • Top-down approach
  • Complex grievance redressal mechanism
  • Unrealistic standards

What Reforms can be Brought to CC to Make Them Effective?

  • One Size Does Not Fit All: Formulation of CC should be a decentralized activity with the head office providing only broad guidelines.
  • Wide Consultation Process: CC be formulated after extensive consultations within the organization followed by a meaningful dialogue with civil society.
  • Firm Commitments to be Made: CC must be precise and make firm commitments of service delivery standards to the citizens/consumers in quantifiable terms wherever possible.
  • Redressal Mechanism in Case of Default: Lay down the relief which the organization is bound to provide if it has defaulted on the promised standards of delivery.
  • Periodic Evaluation of CC: Preferably through an external agency.
  • Hold Officers Accountable for Results: Fix specific responsibility in cases where there is a default in adhering to the CC.
  • Include Civil Society in the Process: To assist in improvement in the contents of the Charter, and its adherence as well as educating the citizens about the importance of this vital mechanism.
  • Benchmark using end-user feedback

What Should be the Way Forward?

  • A Citizens’ Charter cannot be an end in itself, it is rather a means to an end – a tool to ensure that the citizen is always at the heart of any service delivery mechanism.
  • Drawing from best practice models such as the Sevottam Model (a Service Delivery Excellence Model) can help CC in becoming more citizen-centric.
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