Delivering public services in time to 35 million citizens?
Karnataka has crated a global benchmark in terms of delivery of public services through the Sakala programme. Starting in 2012, the state has created a delivery system now covering 419 services promising a timely and satisfactory delivery of each service.
Revenue, food, transport for driving license etc., were the major services in which the majority of service requests were made. With more than ninety percent citizens getting their services in time, the state proved that the attitudes of government staff can indeed be moulded. Everybody who does not commit any default gets an appreciation letter. Those who delay can be personally fined.
Within sixty days, NIC designed the e-governance portal and started to deliver. A public system delivers the design, tens of thousands of staff of the state government employees implement and ensure that promises made to citizens are kept.
Competition among districts helped in avoiding complacency to emerge. The same district seldomly gets recognition for topping the rankings more than once. Healthy competition helps in keeping everybody on toes. With more than ninety percent client satisfaction level, one could just relax. But that was not the intention of the Sakala programme. A few cases of delay were picked up on sample basis to study the reasons for delay. Showcase notice happens automatically for every case of delay. An SMS system keeps citizens informed of the status and progress of their service delivery. A live phone-in-programme every Wednesday on television allows people to ask questions, and hear and view openly what other citizens feel about all the claims of efficiency and the law minister has to take responsibility for delivery of services.
Time limits are set by employees so that they can keep a day or two margin if they wish. But a pleasant surprise is that staff has delivered 35 million requests for services in last 18 months in far shorter time than stipulated. A call centre seeks feedback from those served and finds out how many times they were asked to come to the service desk, and were they informed about all requirements besides online information on the portal?
Different databases of the government are being integrated so that various declarations can be confirmed and taken into account for making appropriate decisions. The caste certificate was often required time and again. But somebody’s caste does not change. Requiring the certificate over and over again thus is redundant.
Not only complainants shared problems, they also suggested reforms which the government quickly agreed to implement. Self-declaration was accepted instead of affidavits in most cases. A birth certificate is now issued in the hospital itself.
The housing board was told not to collect domicile certificates but to use various records citizens can provide, such as electricity bills, which prove their stay at that place for long enough.
Dr Shalini Rajnish, secretary, department of personnel and administrative reforms, Karnataka, along with her team has created a new standard of performance. There are sixteen states which have enacted laws for accountability to citizens but none is even close to the level of coverage and efficiency achieved in Karnataka. I mentioned before that we should be open to learn from anyone. An experiment started during the BJP regime and strengthened during the Congress regime shows a new culture of performance emerging in the country. I hope that we will get over a small sectarian approach to learning from good ideas. A bill passed unanimously in the state assembly generated political commitment to ensure continuity. Is there a lesson in this strategy?
Will emerging leaders of the country adopt a more inclusive, collegial, constructive approach to ensure that good ideas continue regardless. Bureaucracy will get motivated as well and citizens will obviously find their concerns ADDRESSED with greater compassion and continuity.