Citizens’ Charter: Instrument of organisational transparency and accountability

The Citizens’ Charter is an instrument which seeks to make an organisation transparent, accountable and citizen friendly. A Citizens’ Charter is basically a set of commitments made by an organisation regarding the standards of service which it delivers.

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Benefits of Citizen Charter

1. It enhances accountability by providing citizens with a clear understanding of service delivery standards, including timetables, user fees for services, and options for grievance redress.

2. It increases organisational effectiveness and performance by making a public commitment to adhere to measurable service delivery standards.

3. It creates a way for both internal and external actors to objectively monitor service delivery performance.

4. It creates a more professional and client-responsive environment for service delivery.

5. It fosters improvements in staff morale.

6. It decreases opportunities for corruption and graft by increasing transparency and educating citizens about their rights.!

7. It increases government revenues by ensuring that the money citizens pay for services goes into the government’s coffers (and not into employees’ pockets).

Problem Faced in implementation

As pointed out, the Citizens’ Charters initiative in India had started in 1997 and the Charters formulated are in a nascent stage of implementation. Introduction of a new concept is always difficult in any organisation. Introduction and implementation of the concept of Citizens’ Charter in the Government of India was much more difficult due to the old bureaucratic set up/procedures and the rigid attitudes of the work force. The major obstacles encountered in this initiative were:-

1. The general perception of organisations which formulated Citizens’ Charters was that the exercise was to be carried out because there was a direction from the top. The consultation process was minimal or largely absent. It thus became one of the routine activities of the organisation and had no focus.

2. For any Charter to succeed the employees responsible for its implementation should have proper training and orientation, as commitments of the Charter cannot be expected to be delivered by a work force that is unaware of the spirit and content of the Charter. However, in many cases, the concerned staff were not adequately trained and sensitised.

3. Sometimes, transfers and reshuffles of concerned officers at the crucial stages of formulation/implementation of a Citizens’ Charter in an organisation severely undermined the strategic processes which were put in place and hampered the progress of the initiative.

4. Awareness campaigns to educate clients about the Charter were not conducted systematically.

5. In some cases, the standards/time norms of services mentioned in Citizens’ Charter were either too lax or too tight and were, therefore, unrealistic and created an unfavourable impression on the clients of the Charter.

6. The concept behind the Citizens’ Charter was not properly understood. Information brochures, publicity materials, pamphlets produced earlier by the organisations were mistaken for Citizens’ Charters.

Hence, we can say that the prime objective of the exercise to issue the Citizen’s Charter of an organisation is to improve the quality of public services. This is because it 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.

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