First introduced in early 1990’s, they represented a landmark shift in the delivery of public services.
Emphasised on citizens as customers by ensuring that public services are responsive to the citizens they serve
Basically a set of commitments made by an organization regarding the standards of service which it delivers.
It comprises of the Vision and Mission Statement of the organization, stating the outcomes desired and the broad strategy to achieve these goals and outcomes.
Clearly states what subjects it deals with and the service areas it broadly covers.
The Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, 2011 (Citizens Charter) seeks to create a mechanism to ensure timely delivery of goods and services to citizens. It requires every public authority to publish a CC within six months of the commencement of the Act and levies a penalty of up to Rs 50,000 for failure to render services.
Principles of Service Delivery
Quality - improving the quality of services
Choice - for the users wherever possible
Standards - specifying what to expect within a time frame
Value - for the taxpayers’ money
Accountability - of the service provider (individual as well as Organization)
Transparency - in rules, procedures, schemes and grievance redressal
Participative- Consult and involve
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 have still not been adopted by all Ministries/Departments. This overlooks local issues.
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.
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.
Drawing from best practice models such as the Sevottam Model (a Service Delivery Excellence Model) can help CC in becoming more citizen centric.