Current Public Administration Magazine (July - 2014) - "Miscellaneous" - Citizen Charter

Sample Material of Current Public Administration Magazine


Citizen 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. "Citizen's 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 Citizen's 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 "Service First".

The basic objective of the Citizen's Charter is to empower the citizen in relation to public service delivery. The six principles of the Citizen's Charter movement as originally framed were:

  1. Quality: Improving the quality of services;
  2. Choice: Providing choice wherever possible;
  3. Standards: Specify what to expect and how to act if standards are not met;
  4. Value: Add value for the taxpayers' money;
  5. Accountability: Be accountable to individuals and organisations; and
  6. Transparency: Ensure transparency in 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.

Get this magazine (Current Public Administration) free if you purchase our any of the below courses:

Public Administration Online Coaching / Study Kit or (2) GS-II Online Coaching / Study Kit or (3) GS-III Online Coaching / Study Kit

The International Scene

The UK's Citizen's Charter initiative aroused considerable interest around the world and several countries implemented similar programmes e.g., Australia (Service Charter, 1997), Belgium (Public Service Users' Charter 1992), Canada (Service Standards Initiative, 1995), France (Service Charter, 1992), India (Citizen's Charter, 1997), Jamaica (Citizen's Charter 1994), Malaysia (Client Charter, 1993), Portugal (The Quality Charter in Public Services, 1993), and Spain (The Quality Observatory, 1992) (OECD, 1996).

Some of these initiatives are very similar to the UK model, while others chart new ground by leaning on the service quality paradigm of the Total Quality Management (TQM) movement. Other initiatives are pitched somewhere in between. Even in the UK, in the context of the Next Steps/Modernising Government Initiatives, Citizen's Charters have acquired a service quality face for delivery of public services. The quality tools adopted for improving public services include the Business Excellence Model, Investors in People, Charter Mark, ISO 9000 and Best Value (Government of UK, 1999).

The Government of Malaysia issued Guidelines on the Client's Charter in 1993 to assist government agencies to prepare and implement Client's Charter, which is "a written commitment by an agency to deliver outputs or services according to specified standards of quality" (Government of Malaysia, 1998). A Best Client's Charter Award was instituted in 1993. The Malaysian system of Client's Charter closely follows the UK Model. A distinction is made between agency-wide and unit charters. The concept of 'service recovery' enjoins taking steps to restore the trust and confidence of the client in a proactive manner when things go wrong.

The Commonwealth Government of Australia launched its Service Charter initiative in 1997 as part of its on-going commitment to improve the quality of service provided by agencies to the Australian community by moving the government organisation away from bureaucratic processes to customer-focused outcomes. Service Charters are considered a powerful tool for fostering change and require the organisation to focus on services delivered, to measure and assess performance, and to initiate performance improvement. By providing goals for agencies to strive towards, a Charter acts as a surrogate for competition where none exists (Department of Finance and Administration, 1999). Centrelink is a one-stop shop that provides access to Australian government services for over six million customers. Centrelink has adopted one-to-one service as an innovative and personalised approach to service delivery. One-to-one service treats customers with respect and consistency and takes the complexity out of dealing with government.

The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat started a Service Standard Initiative in 1995 which took its cue from the Citizen's Charters of the United Kingdom, but enlarged the scope considerably. This Service Standard Initiative in Canada was started against the backdrop of citizen expectations relating to friendly, respectful and courteous service; faster response times; extended hours at government offices; and "one-stop-shopping". At the same time there was a need to reduce the deficit and provide value for money through more efficient use of resources (Treasury Board of Canada, 1995).

A comparison of these four major Citizen's Charter initiatives shows that the service quality approach is embedded in them in different degrees. Once a decision is taken to make public services citizen-centric, the customer focus of the Total Quality Management (TQM) variety cannot be far behind. In fact, the Citizen's Charter approach has several things in common with TQM. Both begin by focusing on meeting customer/citizen requirements. Other key common elements are conformance to standards, stakeholder involvement and continuous improvement.

The Indian Scene

Over the years, in India, significant progress has been made in the field of economic development. This, along with a substantial increase in the literacy rate, (from 51.63% to 65.38% in the last decade) has made Indian citizens increasingly aware of their rights. Citizens have become more articulate and expect the administration not merely to respond to their demands but also to anticipate them. It was in this climate that since 1996 a consensus had evolved in the Government on effective and responsive administration. In a Conference of Chief Ministers of various States and Union Territories held on 24 May, 1997 in New Delhi, presided over by the Prime Minister of India, an "Action Plan for Effective and Responsive Government" at the Centre and State levels was adopted. One of the major decisions at that Conference was that the Central and State Governments would formulate Citizen's Charters, starting with those sectors that have a large public interface (e.g., Railways, Telecom, Posts, Public Distribution Systems). These Charters were required to include standards of service and time limits that the public can reasonably expect avenues of grievance redress and a provision for independent scrutiny with the involvement of citizen and consumer groups.

Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances in Government of India (DARPG) initiated the task of coordinating, formulating and operationalising Citizen's Charters. Guidelines for formulating the Charters as well as a list of do's and don'ts were communicated to various government departments/organisations to enable them to bring out focused and effective charters. For the formulation of the Charters, the government agencies at the Centre and State levels were advised to constitute a task force with representation from users, senior management and the cutting edge staff. The Charters are expected to incorporate the following elements :-(i) Vision and Mission Statement; (ii) Details of business transacted by the organisation; (iii) Details of clients; (iv) Details of services provided to each client group; (v) Details of grievance redress mechanism and how to access it; and (vi) Expectations from the clients.

Primarily an adaptation of the UK model, the Indian Citizen's Charter has an additional component of 'expectations from the clients' or in other words 'obligations of the users'. Involvement of consumer organisations, citizen groups, and other stakeholders in the formulation of the Citizen's Charter is emphasised to ensure that the Citizen's Charter meets the needs of the users. Regular monitoring, review and evaluation of the Charters, both internally and through external agencies, are enjoined. As on March, 2005, 107 Citizen's Charters had been formulated by the Central Government Ministries/Departments/Organisations and 629 Charters by various agencies of State Governments & Administrations of Union Territories. Most of the national Charters are posted on the government's websites and are open to public scrutiny. The organisations with Citizen's Charters are advised to give publicity to their Charters through such means as print/electronic media and awareness campaigns.

Courtesy : Centre for Good Governance, Hyderabad

Get this magazine (Current Public Administration) free if you purchase our any of the below courses:

Public Administration Online Coaching / Study Kit or (2) GS-II Online Coaching / Study Kit or (3) GS-III Online Coaching / Study Kit

<< Go Back to Main Page