Citizen’s Charter is a document which represents a systematic effort to focus on the commitment of the Organisation towards its Citizens in respects of Standard of Services, Information, Choice and Consultation, Non-discrimination and Accessibility, Grievance Redress, Courtesy and Value for Money. This also includes expectations of the Organisation from the Citizen for fulfilling the commitment of the Organisation.
Who is a ‘Citizen’ with reference to Citizen’s Charter?
The term ‘Citizen’ in the Citizen’s Charter implies the clients or customers whose interests and values are addressed by the Citizen’s Charter and, therefore, includes not only the citizens but also all the stakeholders, i.e., citizens, customers, clients, users, beneficiaries, other Ministries/ Departments/ Organisations, State Governments, UT Administrations etc.
The salient features of a Citizen’s Charter are:
- Agreed and published standards for service delivery;
- Openness and information about service delivery;
- ‘Choice’ and Consultation with users;
- Courtesy and helpfulness in service delivery; and
- Provision of redressal of grievances.
- Standards: The Charter should lay out explicit standards of service delivery so that users understand what they can reasonably expect from service providers. These standards should be time‐bound, relevant, accurate, measurable and specific.
- Information and openness: A key attribute of good service is the availability of relevant and concise information to the users at the right time and at the right place.
- Choice and consultation: The Charter should provide choice of services to users wherever practicable. There should be regular and systematic consultation with the users of the service to fix service standards and to ascertain quality of service delivery.
- Courtesy and helpfulness: The Charter can help embed a culture of courteous and helpful service from public servants.
- Grievance redressal and complaints handling: by facilitating and responding to complaints, the causes for complaint can be reduced. Secondly, by identifying ‘trends’ in complaints, the service provider can resolve systemic and recurring problems.
- 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, beginning with sectors with a large public interface such as the railways, telecom, posts, PDS, etc.
- The Indian model of citizen’s charter is an adaptation from the UK model. One additional component of the charter in the Indian version is the inclusion of the point ‘expectation from clients.
- The Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, 2011 (Citizens Charter) was introduced in the Lok Sabha in December 2011. It was referred to a Standing Committee which submitted its report in 2012. The bill, however, lapsed due to the dissolution of the Lok Sabha in 2014.
- One size fits all: Tendency to have a uniform CC for all offices under the parent organization. CC have still not been adopted by all Ministries/Departments. This overlooks local issues.
- Silo operations: Devoid of participative mechanisms in a majority of cases, not formulated through a consultative process with cutting edge staff who will finally implement it.
- Non-Dynamic: Charters are rarely updated making it a one-time exercise, frozen in time.
- 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.
- Stakeholders not consulted: 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.
- Poor adherence: 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.
- Wide consultation process: CC be formulated after extensive consultations within the organization followed by a meaningful dialogue with civil society.
- Participatory process: 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.
- 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.
- One size does not fit all: formulation of CC should be a decentralized activity with the head office providing only broad guidelines.
- Periodic updation of CC: preferably through an external agency.
- Fix responsibility: Hold officers accountable for results: fix specific responsibility in cases where there is a default in adhering to the CC.
Recommendations of Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA):
- Need for citizens and staffto be consulted at every stage of formulation
- Orientation of staffabout the salient features and goals/ objectives of the Charter
- Need for creation of database on consumer grievances and redress.
- Need for wider publicity of the Charter
- Earmarking of specific budgets for awareness generation
Citizen’s Charter is playing a prominent part in ensuring “minimum government & maximum governance”, changing the nature of charters from non-justiciable to justiciable & adopting penalty measures that will make it more efficient & citizen friendly. The Sevottam model proposed by 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission for public Service Delivery can be regarded as a standard model for providing services in citizen centric governance.