A short note on Concept and Origin of Citizen’s Charter:
- It has been recognised world over that good governance is essential for sustainable development, both economic and social.
- The three essential aspects emphasised in good governance are transparency, accountability and responsiveness of the administration.
- Citizens’ Charters initiative is a response to the quest for solving the problems which a citizen encounters, day in and day out, while dealing with the organisations providing public services.
- The concept of Citizens’ Charter enshrines the trust between the service provider and its users.
- 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: 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 re-launched in 1998 by the Labour Government of Tony Blair which rechristened it Services First.
Q. What is a Citizen’s Charter?
- The Citizen’s Charter is a written declaration by a Government department that highlights the standards of service delivery that it subscribes to, availability of choice for consumers, avenues for grievance redress and other related information.
- In other words, it is a set of commitments made by a department regarding the standards of service which it delivers.
- It is intended to empower citizens and clients so that they can demand committed standards of service and avail remedies in case of non-compliance by service provider organizations.
- The basic thrust of the Citizen’s Charter is to render public services citizen centric by making them demand driven rather than supply driven.
What are the principles underlying the concept of CC?
- The basic objective of the Citizens Charter is to empower the citizen in relation to public service delivery.
- Six principles of the Citizens Charter movement as originally framed, were:
- Quality: Improving the quality of services;
- Choice : Wherever possible;
- Standards :Specify what to expect and how to act if standards are not met;
- Value: For the taxpayers money;
- Accountability : Individuals and Organisations; and
- Transparency: Rules/ Procedures/ Schemes/Grievances.
- These were later elaborated by the Labour Government as following nine principles of Service Delivery (1998) :-
- Set standards of service ;
- Be open and provide full information ;
- Consult and involve ;
- Encourage access and the promotion of choice ;
- Treat all fairly ;
- Put things right when they go wrong ;
- Use resources effectively ;
- Innovate and improve ;
- Work with other providers.
Q. What is the difference between a citizen and a client?
- Citizens are individuals, groups of individuals (companies, trusts, associations, unions etc.) and the common public at large.
- They are outside the government and are generally referred to as external clients.
- Being outside the government machinery, the general presumption is that they do not have sufficient knowledge of the government’s internal processes.
- Therefore the onus is on the service provider to ensure that citizens are well aware of the service standards and the expectations from service recipients.
- It cannot be presumed that all citizens are literate or understand the official language, and it may be necessary to communicate with them in the local language also.
- Clients could be government agencies and government employees availing services from another government agency. Services here will exclude administrative control activities, references and opinions to be provided on policy-related matters which cannot be disposed-off within predefined time norms.
- Clients are part of the government and are generally referred to as internal clients.
- Being part of the government machinery, the general presumption is that clients have sufficient knowledge of the government’s internal processes.
- Therefore the onus of ensuring that clients who are also part of the government are well aware of the service standards and the expectations from service recipients is equally divided between the service provider and the service recipient.
- It is presumed that all clients are literate and communicating with them in the official language of the service provider agency is sufficient.
- Q. What is the format of a Citizen’s Charter?
- The Citizen’s Charter is an instrument which seeks to make an organization transparent, accountable and citizen friendly.
- A Citizen’s Charter is basically a set of commitments made by an organization regarding the standards of service which it delivers.
- Every Citizen’s Charter has several essential components to make it meaningful:-
- The Vision and Mission Statement of the organization. This gives the outcomes desired and the broad strategy to achieve these goals and outcomes. This also makes the user aware of the intent of their service provider and helps in holding the organization accountable.
- The organization must clearly state in its Citizen’s Charter what subject it deals with and the service areas it broadly covers. This helps the user to understand the type of services they can expect from a particular service provider
- The Citizen’s Charter should also stipulate the responsibilities of the citizens in the context of the Charter.
- The commitments / promises at (a) and (b) constitute the heart of a Citizen’s Charter.
- Even though these promises are not enforceable in a court of law, each organization should ensure that the promises made are kept and, in case of default, a suitable compensatory / remedial mechanism should be provided.
- Mainly, Citizen’s Charter for a Ministry / Department should contain the following nine sections: i. Cover Page ii. Vision iii. Mission iv. Service Standards v. Grievance Redress Mechanism vi. Stakeholders / Clients vii. Responsibility Centers viii. Indicative expectations from service recipients ix. Month and Year for next review of the charter
2nd ARC’s recommendations on Citizen’s Charter:
- In its Fourth Report on ‘Ethics in Governance’ the 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission has observed that in order to make Charters an effective tool for holding public servants accountable, the Charters should clearly spell out the remedy / penalty / compensation in case there is a default in meeting the standards spelt out in the Charter.
- It is emphasized that it is better to have a few promises which can be kept than a long list of lofty but impractical aspirations.
- As per the ARC, Citizen’s Charters should be made effective by adopting the following principles:
- One size does not fit all
- Citizen’s Charter should be prepared for each independent unit under the overall umbrella of the organization’s charter
- Wide consultation which include civil society in the process
- Firm commitments to be made
- Internal process and structure should be reformed to meet the commitments given in the Charter
- Redress mechanism is case of default
- Periodic evaluation of Citizen’s Charters
- Benchmark using end-user feedback
- Hold officers accountable for results
Q. What are the Quality management principles for Citizen’s Charters?
The seven principles are:
- Customer focus
- Engagement of people
- Process approach
- Evidence-based decision making
- Relationship management
Critical Evaluation of Citizen’s Charters in India:
- During the Year 2002-03, DARPG engaged a professional agency to develop a standardised model for internal and external evaluation of Citizens’ Charters in a more effective, quantifiable and objective manner.
- As per the report of evaluation carried out by the Agency, major findings were :-
- In majority of cases Charters were not formulated through a consultative process;
- By and large service providers are not familiar with the philosophy, goals and main features of the Charter;
- Adequate publicity to the Charters had not been given in any of the Departments evaluated. In most Departments, the Charters are only in the initial or middle stage of implementation;
- No funds have been specifically earmarked for awareness generation of Citizens’ Charter or for orientation of staff on various components of the Charter;
Key recommendations of the report include: –
- need for citizens and staff to be consulted at every stage of formulation of the Charter,
- orientation of staff about the salient features and goals/ objectives of the Charter; vision and mission statement of the department; and skills such as team building, problem solving, handling of grievances and communication skills,
- need for creation of database on consumer grievances and redress,
- need for wider publicity of the Charter through print media, posters, banners, leaflets, handbills, brochures, local newspapers etc. and also through electronic media,
- earmarking of specific budgets for awareness generation and orientation of staff, and
- replication of best practices in this field.
chiseled and crafted by G.Rajput sir