Last Update: May 2023 (Quality of Service Delivery)
Quality of Service Delivery
This article deals with the topic titled ‘Quality of Service Delivery .’ This is part of our series on ‘Ethics’. For more articles, you can click here.
Public Services are the services delivered to the public by local, municipal, or federal governments. But in modern administration, Public service goes beyond the administrative functions of the governments and incorporates non-governmental organizations as a lot of public functions are delegated to private organizations.
Understanding the Concept of Service Delivery
The concept has to be understood w.r.t. two different angles.
- Quality of services provided to the poor sections of the population: These services are usually offered free of cost or are subsidized by the government—for example, education, healthcare etc. The overall objective of providing these services is to provide social protection for poor and vulnerable sections of society.
- Services for which the government charges the citizens for service delivery, e.g. passport, driving license, gas and electricity connection, telephone services etc. Since the citizens pay for the services, they expect time-bound delivery of quality services
Problems in Service Delivery
- Weberian Bureaucracy: The working of most government organizations is still based on the Weberian principle, which emphasizes rules and regulations. For Bureaucracy, Rules and Regulations have become end in themselves rather than means for making a just society. It has also resulted in a lack of flexibility & responsiveness to the changing needs of society.
- Bureaucratic Red Tape: The bureaucratic red tape and slow decision-making process in government agencies can also hamper the quality of service delivery. The long waiting times for approval or processing of documents can discourage people from accessing government services. For example, individuals who apply for a government subsidy or grant must wait months to receive approval, which can lead to financial hardship.
- Government Monopoly over the Provision of Public Services: In India, the government has a monopoly over the provision of various public services, including healthcare, education, transportation, and utility services such as electricity and water supply. This monopoly can significantly impact the quality of service delivery, like overcrowding, underfunding, understaffing and substandard customer service.
- Inefficiencies & Absenteeism: In India, absenteeism impacts the quality of service delivery. For example
- Healthcare: Absenteeism of medical staff can lead to delayed diagnosis and treatment
- Education: A study has revealed 25 per cent absenteeism of teachers in government schools. It leads to a lack of supervision and teaching for students.
- Public Services: Absenteeism among police officers and firefighters can lead to delayed response times during emergencies
- Corruption: Corruption is a significant problem in India, and it also affects the delivery of government services.
- Bribery and Nepotism are common, and they can delay the delivery of services or even denial of services altogether.
- Government officials often demand bribes for basic services like issuing a driver’s license, passport, or ration card.
- Bribery and Nepotism can affect Police investigations, leading to the wrongful arrest or release of individuals.
- In educational services, Students may be asked to pay bribes for admission to top colleges and universities.
- Leakages: The leakages in the public funds adversely impacts the quality of service delivery. It is corroborated by Rajiv Gandhi’s famous statement that if the government allocates ₹ 10 for public service, only ₹1 reaches the intended beneficiary.
- Education Sector: The leakages in the Mid Day Meal scheme reduce the quantity and quality of food served and undermine the objectives of the scheme
- Healthcare Sector: The leakages in the scheme, such as National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), due to payments to ghost health workers and suppliers, inflated drug prices etc., compromise the availability and quality of healthcare services in rural areas
- Food Distribution: Due to leakages in the Public Distribution System (PDS) owing to the diversion of subsidized food to the black market deprives the poor of their entitlements.
- The Convenience of Service Providers, not Receivers: Public services have been provided based on the convenience of the service providers rather than receivers. For example,
- Bank timings: Indian Banks are operational from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, which is not convenient for working people. Hence, people have to take time off work to visit the bank.
- Healthcare services: Many healthcare services operate during limited hours and are often closed on weekends and public holidays.
- Limited Access: The limited accessibility of government services is another issue. In India, many rural areas lack basic infrastructure, including access to government services. It makes it challenging for people in these areas to access government services.
- Lack of Incentives to be Efficient: The lack of incentives to be efficient is a persistent challenge in India that impacts the quality of service delivery. For example,
- Delay in processing government applications: The root cause of this problem is the lack of motivation among government officials to complete their work on time as they do not face any penalty or punishment for the delay
- Public Education and Healthcare System: Teachers and healthcare professionals do not show a high level of motivation because they do not receive any reward for good performance or face any consequences for poor performance.
Ways to Improve Service Delivery
- Inculcation of Public Service Ethos in the Institutions and Individuals. These include values like compassion, empathy etc.) and character-building exercises.
- Increasing Social Accountability: The quality of public services can be improved by increasing social accountability using mechanisms such as School Management Committees (SMCs), and Rogi Kalyan Samitis (RKSs)
- School Management Committees (SMCs): SMCs were constituted as part of the Right to Education Act and consist of parents, teachers, and other community members. They are responsible for managing the day-to-day affairs of schools. This mechanism enhances accountability and improves the transparency of school functioning.
- Rogi Kalyan Samitis (RKSs): RKSs are committees comprising representatives from the community, government officials, and healthcare professionals to monitor and improve the functioning of hospitals.
- Performance-based bonus payments
- While salaries of Public Servants are high, the pay does not in any way depend on any measure of performance. Performance-based incentives will encourage public servants to be more efficient.
- Involving the Private Sector to infuse competition
- Competition increases the quality of service delivery. Also, the profit-seeking behaviour of private sector managers leads to cost-cutting, deployment of better technology and greater attention to customer satisfaction.
- The government should directly provide health and education grants or vouchers to the poor, which would be redeemable at any recognized school or clinic.
- Citizen Report Card
- Citizen Report Cards are prepared mainly by NGOs and are based on response to the quality of service by Citizens.
- The rights-based approach to improving public service delivery
- A rights-based approach is an approach that focuses on the rights of citizens as enshrined in the Constitution and other legal frameworks, with the goal of ensuring that these rights are upheld and protected.
- Right to Public Service Acts: Many states, such as Punjab, have passed the Right to Public Service Acts to give timely delivery of services to people.
- Plugging leakages
- To plug leakages, the government could use Aadhar and Direct Benefit Transfers. It will help find the ghost and duplicate beneficiaries and remove profit-seeking intermediaries.
- Giving lesser discretion to Bureaucracy
- The existing Departmental Manuals and Codes should be reviewed.
- Phrases like ‘left to the discretion of, ‘as far as possible’, etc should be avoided.
- Contractual Structure of Employment
- Modify job to contractual nature, making job renewal subject to satisfactory performance. It will encourage public servants to be more efficient.
Case Study of Helsinki
One example of good quality public service can be seen in the city of Helsinki, Finland.