Improving the Delivery of Public Services

In the present day, it has become essential to address service delivery gaps. The initiatives in this section have used innovative techniques to improve service delivery.

Service Delivery Mechanism: Efforts & Challenges, Nepal

While Nepal was under monarchy, there was an informal system to deliver services to rural areas. This was succeeded by a centralized delivery system under the democratic government. In 1990, the Local Governance Act was passed to allow decentralized decision- making and delivery of public services. However, the act was not effective due to instability in government, which made it difficult to initiate reforms and have long-term policies.

Presently, Nepal is in a transition phase and is working towards a stable government and a new constitution. The Nepalese government is focusing on various schemes to facilitate service delivery. The first such scheme is the Citizen Charter, which provides a citizen with compensation if services are not provided within a stipulated time. This makes the delivery of services efficient and accountable. Another such scheme is Hello Government wherein if citizens do not receive services they are entitled to, they can report the incident to a 24-hour phone helpline. Another scheme is Government at Public Door that aims to provide services related to issues like health and education to the public at their doorstep. Other schemes proposed to increase accountability and efficiency include: Public Hearing, Bottom-up planning, Targeted program and Poverty Reduction. Nepal has witnessed several successes in public service delivery. The program for protection of community forests gave citizens the right to use and sell non-timber forest products as they saw fit while protecting the tree-cover. This program was successful in hilly areas but not in the Terai plains where forests began to be exploited to the point of degradation because both the timber and the land were of high economic value. The two other success stories are of the Drinking Water Project and the Control Ma. Pa. Se. Initiative against drunken driving.7

Initially the citizenry participated actively in the government initiative to improve public services but the public enthusiasm was short-lived. Though people became more aware, they had limited confidence in government schemes. Lack of institutionalization and instability of the government are the two major obstacles that Nepal faces, along with unbalanced supply and demand for services. Poverty, lack of infrastructure, low public demand, emigration and limited employment opportunities are critical challenges for the government. Authorities, however, see potential in the country’s economically active population, natural resources and strategic location between India and China.

State Wide Attention on Grievances through Application of Technology (SWAGAT), Gujarat

SWAGAT (State Wide Attention on Grievances through Application of Technology) was the winner of the 2010 United Nations Public Service Award. The program has been functional since 2003 and is currently active in 248 districts in the state of Gujarat, India. SWAGAT is based on the philosophy of making administration people friendly. The concept behind this initiative is that efficient, transparent and quick grievance redressal is the key to citizen satisfaction and the government must be accountable to the public.

Before SWAGAT, registering grievances required a lot of paperwork and there was no formal system for follow-up. Moreover, citizens did not have access to higher levels of administration. SWAGAT sought to address these issues and facilitated the integration of governments at State, District, Sub-district and Gram levels. On a fixed day every month, grievances are registered and made available to concerned officials. Subsequently, the Chief Minister and senior officers at various levels of government interact with the complainants via video conferencing. Cases are resolved on the same day or within a stipulated time frame as decided. Complaints that reach this level must have necessarily gone through lower levels of administration and remain unresolved. This provides incentive for all officials to take grievances seriously as failure on their part might result in serious action from the Chief Minister. Statistics show that about 94% of all applications received through SWAGAT have been resolved. The administration is more accountable to the public and surveys show an increase in citizen satisfaction. Involvement of multiple officials allows for a fair decision making process.

This initiative works on the principle of management by exception. Direct involvement by the Chief Minister contributes to deterrence through a demonstrative effect, as in case of bribery and corruption. It also activates local level administration and encourages state- wide administration interaction as all officials participate in SWAGAT sessions. SWAGAT makes higher levels of administration aware of the problems of the citizens, which creates scope for policy reform. Another interesting aspect of SWAGAT is that it doesn’t require additional financial resources and works by utilizing the existing budget in an innovative and efficient manner. The program has addressed a variety of cases including those related to corruption, harassment, land reforms and relief for disabled.

Electronic Single Window processing of foreign trade and customs formalities, Senegal

Senegal’s Single Window for trade aims to allow paperless trade through an integrated electronic system to enhance trade and commerce in the country.

GAINDE 2000 was established in 2002 as a public private partnership to help Customs in its project to modernize and promote the Senegalese expertise in Africa and beyond. In 2004, GAINDE set up ORBUS, a single electronic window to streamline foreign trade by simplifying and standardizing trade and customs procedures. This system has reduced the multi-step process of carrying out pre-clearance formalities which earlier took up to five days, to a three-step process of transaction, certification and collection, which takes no more than half a day and has no transportation cost. GAINDE 2002 is based on a technological infrastructure and offers clearance services under three categories. For people who have a general idea of how the automated system works, there is an electronic exchange system. For those who cannot, there is a human interface, wherein there is someone to receive the application, approve and revert to the trader. The third is when paperwork is required, and it cannot be retrieved electronically, such as documents from other countries. In this case, the documents are sent by conventional mail.

ORBUS works on a rare successful consensus between government departments and port officials with private entities like banks, traders and clearing agents, brought together by technology. The government was committed to providing all public agencies with the necessary capacity to shift from the old system to the paperless one. Requisite hardware and software was made available and effective communication and technical support helped convince people to undertake this scheme. The unofficial costs of the clearance processes that were earlier passed onto exporters in the form of higher fees are now formally compensated to public servants thereby preventing corruption.

In a nutshell, ORBUS simplifies and modernizes trade procedures, reducing bottlenecks and time lags, making trade fast and convenient.

Collaboration Testing and Innovation in ‘Saga’, Japan

Collaboration Testing is a means of improving public service delivery by allowing discussion and dialogue between private companies, civil society organizations (CSOs) and the government. Under this initiative, the government discloses information regarding its service delivery process and invites proposals from the private sector for improving upon the status quo. These proposals are then debated and reviewed. Subsequently, services are outsourced or public–private agreements are negotiated unless the government can explain how it is doing the job in the best possible manner.

This initiative brought three changes in the system. First, in the interests of transparency and trust-building among stakeholders all government budget information was made publicly available and accessible by default (unless something was explicitly tagged as confidential, it was put in public space; the earlier practice was the reverse; everything was confidential unless otherwise stated). Second, the system became client-oriented with various service providers collaborating to ensure efficient delivery and increased citizen satisfaction. The third change was in the area of decision-making. Whenever private proposals were rejected, the government was now legally bound to provide a rationale and basis for rejection. No proposal could be spiked down without justification. This ensured that service delivery was entrusted with the most capable providers and the reasons for acceptance and rejection as the case may be were documented in an unbiased way, thus promoting a culture of transparency and in-depth knowledge sharing. The success of Collaboration Testing has been attributed to strong leadership and the responsiveness of the officials.

Innovation in ‘Saga’ seeks to combine public sector experience with private sector technology and innovation. The administration and the private enterprise undertake R&D by using mutual intellectual resources without mobilizing any additional financial resources, based on an agreed contract. The project has a multistep mechanism. The government calls for proposals to solve a target issue. Private businesses send proposals and applicable technologies and knowhow, which are examined by third party expert committees of the government. Private firms customize solutions, which undergo on-site applications and tests and finally, R&D results are shared as market solutions and technology. The Saga project has multiple positive impacts in the field of innovation that manifest in the form of citizen satisfaction and societal welfare. It encourages the government to understand the needs of the people and contribute to the society. It proactively promotes thinking on the ground, which allows policy improvements.

Regularized Informal Settlements, Tanzania

Prior to government intervention, about 81% of the urban properties in Tanzania were informal. This was hampering development plans. To address this problem, the government launched multiple initiatives to tackle unplanned settlements. The most successful of these was MKURABITA, the Property and Business Formalization Program. This initiative was essential in the backdrop of limited planning by the local government, unaffordable and inadequate housing and poor systems for monitoring land management. MKURABITA allowed informal property owners to access formal markets by using their newly registered land as collateral for loans.

The guiding principle behind MKURABITA is community participation. It promotes and functions on local acceptance, commitment, financing, ownership and sustainability of the financial agenda. The implementation of this scheme went through a multistep process – creating awareness amongst stakeholders (Regional commissioner, District commissioner, local leaders, communities), setting up institutions, training the technical team, surveying the land and getting approval for regularization schemes. Community mobilization was critical for the success of MKURABITA. Owners had to be trained to use their land certificates as collateral at financial institutions.

Although the public was initially sceptical about the potential of the program, success in one district helped build confidence in the government’s commitment towards formalization. Like any other service delivery mechanism, MKURABITA too faced challenges. There was a lack of land for public use, for which the government began purchasing land from owners or accepting free offers from people. Absenteeism of landlords was also a problem that was addressed through mass mobilization and community participation. Initial finance for the project came from the government and other stakeholders were invited to contribute.

Participation of citizens is a must for efficient implementation. The visible tangible benefits of formalization incentivized people to enthusiastically contribute to the scheme for better services and infrastructure.

Key Takeaways

  • A citizen centric approach is important to achieve efficient and effective service delivery.
  • The mechanism used can be different depending on the context. For instance, management by exception worked well in SWAGAT with intervention from the top whereas equal involvement of all levels of government was required for ORBUS and Collaboration Testing required dialogue between the public and private sector.
  • Political commitment is paramount for the success of reform initiatives. Peru’s experience shows the benefits of having constitutionally independent bodies that are not vulnerable to changing government priorities.
  • Mass involvement of end consumers helps ensure sustainability of the program and extensive effort must be undertaken to ensure awareness and smooth transition to the new system. This may take the form of information campaigns or technical support as appropriate.
  • Promoting transparency and accountability goes a long way in gaining public trust and ensuring the acceptance of the program.