The Citizen’s Charter emerges as a remarkable initiative to bridge the chasm between the citizens and the administrative machinery. It’s a document that embodies the commitment of a public body towards maintaining a high standard of service delivery within a stipulated time frame, alongside a structured grievance redressal mechanism.
- It is a document that outlines the commitment of a public body towards standard quality and time frame of service delivery along with grievance redress mechanism.
- It includes how citizens can redress any grievances.
- It includes what the citizens can expect out of the service provider.
- The concept is that the charter preserves the trust between the service provider and the citizens/users.
- The concept of a citizen’s charter was initiated by former British Prime Minister John Major in the year 1991. It was started as a national programme intended to improve the quality of public services.
Components of Citizen Charter
1. Vision and mission statement
2. Service standards/Procedures
3. Grievance redressal mechanisms
Citizen’s Charter in India:
- In India, the concept of citizen’s charter was first adopted at a ‘Conference of Chief Ministers of various States and Union Territories’ held in May 1997 in the national capital.
- A major outcome of the conference was a decision to formulate Citizen’s Charters by the central and state governments
- The task of coordination, formulation, and operationalization of citizen’s charters are done by the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG).
- The DARPG website lists more than 700 charters adopted by various government agencies across India.
- Citizen’s charters are not legally enforceable documents. They are just guidelines to enhance service delivery to citizens.
Principles of Citizen’s Charter
- Quality – Improving service quality.
- Choice – Wherever possible.
- Standards – Specifically mention what to expect and how to go about if standards are not met.
- Value – For taxpayer’s money.
- Accountability – At the level of the individual and the organization.
- Transparency – Transparency in rules/schemes/procedures/grievances.
The charter is the declaration of commitment to superiority in service to customers of the department. Example – SEVOTTAM MODEL
Role of Citizen Charter in Public Administration
- Provides for standards of Service Delivery to citizens
- Empowers citizens by creating a professional and customer-oriented environment for the delivery of services.
- Boosts accountability and transparency in the delivery of public services.
- Provides for Grievance Redressal mechanism for public institutions and offices.
- Enhance good governance by improving the effectiveness of organizations by having measurable standards.
- Augment quality of services delivered by incorporating an internal and external monitoring entity.
- Facilitates participatory democracy by making administration citizen centric.
- Promotes collaboration of all sections of the community without any prejudice.
- Develops yardsticks for monitoring and evaluation of service delivery.
Shortcomings of CC in India:
- Devoid of participative mechanisms – in a majority of cases, not formulated through a consultative process with cutting edge staff who will finally implement it.
- Poor design and content: lack of meaningful and succinct CC, 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: making it a one-time exercise, frozen in time.
- 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.
- Little interest shown by the organizations in adhering to their CC: since there is no citizen friendly mechanism to compensate the citizen if the organization defaults.
- Tendency to have a uniform CC for all offices under the parent organization. CC has still not been adopted by all Ministries/Departments. This overlooks local issues.
- Ineffective grievance redressal mechanism. Officers in charge go unpunished which does not infuse a sense of responsibility and commitment.
- Considered as mere formality without any periodic evaluation of its implementation.It has become a routine activity of government departments without any accountability.
Reforming 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: clearly 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, its adherence as well as educating the citizens about the importance of this vital mechanism.
- Citizens and staff need to be consulted at every stage of formulation of charter.
- Orientation of staff about the salient features
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.