Last Updated: June 2023 (Citizen’s Charter – Concept, Benefits and Shortfalls)
Citizen’s Charter – Concept, Benefits and Shortfalls
This article deals with ‘Citizen’s Charter – Concept, Benefits and Shortfalls.’ This is part of our series on ‘Governance’ as well as ‘Ethics’ . For more articles , you can click here.
- Citizen Charter is a document of an organization which contains different services hosted by the organization and the information related to the standard of services along with the cost and time required to deliver such service.
- In other words, it is a set of commitments made by an organization regarding the standards of service which it delivers.
- Citizens’ Charter scheme in its present form was first launched in 1991 in the UK. The aim was to ensure that public services are made responsive to the citizens they serve.
Components of Citizen’s Charter
Every Citizen’s Charter has several essential components to make it meaningful
Vision & Mission Statement
- Vision = Long-Term Objectives of the Organization
- Mission = Specific Goals to be achieved in the stipulated time
- Which services will be provided
- Time frame in which they will be provided
- Standard and Quality of Service to be provided
- Price at which it will be provided
Grievance Redressal Mechanism
- Remedy in case the above expectations aren’t fulfilled.
- These promises are not enforceable in a court of law. Still, each organization should ensure that promises are kept and, in case of default, a suitable compensatory/remedial mechanism should be provided.
Expectations from Client
- Responsibilities of the citizens
- Qualification criteria
- Logistic & paper-oriented issues
It is an Indian innovation. This wasn’t there in the UK Model.
The 6 principles of the Citizen’s Charter movement, as framed initially, were:
- Quality: Improving the quality of services
- Choice: Provide choice wherever possible
- Standards: It should tell what to expect and redressal if standards are not met.
- Value: For the taxpayers’ money
- Accountability: Of Individuals and Organizations
- Transparency: Of Rules, Procedures, Schemes and Grievances
Benefits of the Citizen’s Charter
- Improved Service Delivery: Citizen Charter has led to improved service delivery, reduced bureaucracy, and enhanced citizen satisfaction. For example, the Ministry of Railways introduced the Passenger’s Charter, which outlines the rights and responsibilities of railway passengers. It includes commitments such as providing clean coaches, on-time departures, and prompt grievance redressal. This initiative has improved the overall passenger experience.
- Increased Accountability: Citizen Charter has helped increase accountability as it establishes performance standards, service commitments, and timelines for service delivery, making government officials accountable for their actions.
- Better Grievance Redressal: It has ensured better service quality and grievance redressal systems for the aggrieved citizens. E.g., the Citizen’s Charter of Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board has incorporated the provision of payment of compensation as a token of commitment to its customers in the event of failure to provide services.
- Trust and Public Confidence: When government agencies publicly commit to service standards and demonstrate their adherence to them, it instils citizens’ confidence.
- Continuous Improvement: By monitoring performance against service standards and seeking feedback from citizens, government agencies can identify gaps, address shortcomings, and make necessary improvements.
- Incorporating Citizen Feedback in Policymaking: Citizen Charter helps incorporate the feedback from the service users to improve the quality of service delivery.
- Decrease in Corrupt Practices: Citizens Charter helps reduce corruption due to increased transparency and reduced discretionary powers.
Reasons for failure
Lack of Public Awareness
- Only a small percentage of end-users are aware of the commitments made in the Citizens’ Charter. For example, despite the existence of Citizen’s Charters in various government departments, a significant portion of the population in rural areas is unaware of their rights and the standards of services they should expect.
Setting Lofty Goals
- Most of the time, lofty promises were made without giving attention to the capacity of the organization to deliver promises.
- For example, A government hospital may have a Citizen’s Charter promising timely medical services and access to essential medicines. However, if the hospital lacks sufficient infrastructure, medical equipment, or qualified healthcare professionals, it becomes challenging to fulfil the commitments made in the Charter.
Poor Design & Content
- Critical information that end-users need to hold agencies accountable is simply missing from a large number of charters.
Charters are rarely updated
- Charters are rarely updated, and the Charter of some agencies dates back nearly a decade when the Citizens’ Charter program was started.
- Few Charters indicate the date of release.
End users & NGOs not consulted
- Since a Citizens’ Charter’s primary purpose is to make public service delivery more citizen-centric, agencies must consult ordinary citizens and civil society organizations while formulating Citizen’s Charter.
Faulty Grievance Redressal
- Grievance Redressal Mechanisms, in most cases, are defunct and inactive.
No Legislative/Statutory Backing
- Citizen Charters are toothless since they have no legal backing.
- Lack of legal enforceability allows officials to disregard the commitments mentioned therein without facing any repercussions.
Resistance to Change
- The new practices demand significant changes in the behaviour and attitude of the agency and its staff towards citizens. At times, vested interests work to stall the Citizens’ Charter altogether or in making it toothless.
- Employees of the organization are not trained in tune with Citizen Charter.
ARC II recommendations on Citizen Charter
7 Steps have been suggested by ARC for effective implementation of the Citizen Charter
Internal restructuring should precede Charter formulation
- Merely announcing the Charter will not change the way the Organization functions. It is important to create conducive conditions through interaction and training of employees.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
- Formulation of Citizens’ Charters should be a decentralized activity, with the head office providing broad guidelines.
Wide Consultation Process
- Charter must be framed not only by senior experts but by interaction with the cutting edge staff who will finally implement it and with the user.
Firm Commitments to be made
- Citizens’ Charters must make firm commitments in quantifiable terms.
Redressal mechanism in case of default
- Citizens’ Charter should clearly lay down the relief which the organization is bound to provide if it has defaulted on the promised standards of delivery.
Periodic reviewing of Citizens’ Charters
- Obtain feedback and review the Charter at least every six months, as the Citizens’ Charter is a dynamic document.
Include Civil Society in the Process
- Encourage collaboration between government departments, civil society organizations, and citizens in formulating, implementing, and monitoring Citizen’s Charters.
Sevottam = Seva + Uttam
- Seva = Service
- Uttam = Excellence
Hence, Sevottam = Excellence in delivery of Public Service
Sevottam Model is an evaluatory model, i.e. Government Services as hosted by different Departments and Ministries are evaluated against the Sevottam Model. Based upon performance and evaluation, Grades are given in terms of Standards of Excellence achieved.
There are three pillars of the Sevottam Model against which evaluation is done.
First Pillar – Citizen Charter / Standard of Service Delivery
- The Sevottam Model emphasizes the importance of delivering services to citizens promptly, transparently, and effectively. It promotes the concept of Service Standards, which are the commitments made by government departments regarding the quality and timeline of service delivery. For instance, a passport office may commit to issuing a passport within 15 working days from the date of application.
Second Pillar – Grievance Redressal Mechanism
- The Sevottam Model recognizes the importance of addressing citizen grievances promptly and effectively. It emphasizes establishing grievance redressal mechanisms to handle complaints and ensure timely resolution. For example, if a citizen faces a delay in receiving their passport even after the committed timeframe. In this case, the Sevottam Model expects the passport office to have a well-defined grievance redressal system in place.
Third Pillar – Drive for Excellence
- The Sevottam Model emphasizes the importance of providing excellent customer service to citizens. For example, in the context of the passport office, the Sevottam Model expects the staff to be courteous, professional, and responsive to citizen queries and concerns. The office should have well-trained staff members who are equipped to handle various situations efficiently.