Citizen – Administration Interface
For better governance and administration one needs to emphasise the significance of citizen centric administration. No system of governance can survive for a long time without the support of the citizens. It is evident from the history of the nations that the longevity of their governments largely depended on the cooperation and support rendered to them by their citizens. Wherever this support was missing, the nations found themselves in deep trouble that made their future uncertain. The establishment of several institutional devices and strategies for citizen administration interface adds value and play a very important role in public administration. These commissions act as interface between citizens and administration. The administration citizen relations are significant because the support and consent of the governed is a prerequisite for the sustenance of a representative government like the one in India. The traditional theories of the relationship between the State and society or the government and citizens, in different political systems, be it laissez-faire or democracy or military dictatorship are now inadequate to cope with the new and complex dimensions of administration that are gradually emerging. Today, the citizens are no longer passive beneficiaries of the government, they are the prime movers in the affairs of governance.
Modes Of Interaction Between Citizens And Administration
Today, governance is all about the efficient and effective provision of goods and services. Public administration exists for the betterment of the public by providing services such as health, education, economic security, maintenance of law and order, national defence etc. The public interacts more intimately with public agencies at the cutting-edge level. Local government, for instance, affects people’s lives in various ways. The encounters may pertain to water supply, electricity, garbage disposal and so on.
There are different ways in which the public interacts with the public administrative agencies in real-life situations. These interactions could be in the form of :
This is the most common form of interaction with administrative agencies. In this form, citizens seek to obtain benefits or services from governmental agencies. For example, a patient visits a government hospital for a health check-up or medical treatment.
As a regulatee, the public interacts with many public agencies viz., police, income tax authorities, licensing authorities etc.
The harassed citizens turn litigants when they seek redressal of their grievances from the courts, tribunals and Lok Adalats. As litigants, the public can hope to get justice for their complaints.
Democracy entails increased people’s participation in governance. This is institutionalised through various means like community policing, guardian committees, beneficiary associations etc. In almost all programmes/projects, the people participate at tie levels of planning, implementing and monitoring. People’s participation democratises lot administration and public and also brings in new inputs that help sound project-designing, implementation, and facilitation of assets maintenance.
5. Protesters and those engaged in struggles and people’s movements
People interact with government agencies on public policy as protesters, critically opposing injustice in government policy and action.
The Indian Scenario – Committees And Commissions
The need for institutional innovation to deal with corruption and citizens’ grievances has always been felt in India. Various committees and commissions to bring about administrative changes and create new controlling agencies have made many worthwhile suggestions from time to time. Thee ‘ Law Commission in its 14th Report drew attention to the wide field of administrative discretion in
India where administrative authority may act outside the strict limits of law and propriety: without the affected citizens being in a position to get effective redressal. The Santhanam Committee on Prevention of Corruption thought that it was necessary to devise adequate methods of control over the exercise of discretion by different categories of government servants.
As the Committee observed, “In the more advanced countries various methods of such control have been devised. We recommend that this should be studied and a system of control should be devised keeping in mind the vastness of our country and the basic principles which are enshrined in our Constitution and jurisprudence.” As a sequel to the Santhanam Committee Report, Vigilance Commissions were set up at the Centre in 1964, and also in the various states later. Vigilance Cells have been created in several government departments and public sector undertakings.
The Commissions receive complaints directly from aggrieved persons. Other sources of information about corruption and malpractices are the press reports, audit reports, allegations made by members of Parliament etc.
The nature of prosecution depends on the approval of the appropriate sanctioning authority. The jurisdiction of the Commission is presently limited to complaints against gazetted officers of equivalent status. The Administrative Reforms Commission set up in 1966 took up on a priority basis the matter of redressal of citizens’ grievances. The Commission felt that the existing institutions, to deal with this problem were inadequate and found the Ombudsman to be a sine qua non of democratic functioning; and as an essential prerequisite of the progress and prosperity on which the fulfilment of our democracy depends.
The Commission recommended two-tier machinery of Lokpal and Lokayukta for redressal of citizens’ grievances. Lokpal would deal with complaints against ministers and secretaries to the government at the central as well as state levels. The Lokayukta, one at the Centre and one in each state, would attend to complaints against the rest of the bureaucracy. The Lokpal would be. appointed by the President after consultation with the Chief Justice of India, the chairperson of the Rajya Sabha and the speaker of the Lok Sabha. The legislations for the institution of Lokpal and Lokayukta were introduced in Parliament in 1968 and again in 1971 and 1977. All of them lapsed with the dissolution of respective Lok Sabhas. The ill-fated Lokpal Bill has so far not been able to pass through the drill of parliamentary procedures. Lokayuktas in the states has also not been able to live upto the objectives for which they came into being. The Seventh All India Conference of Lokayuktas and Upa-Lokayuktas held in 2003 suggested that Constitutional status be conferred on this institution to give it more teeth to fight corruption.
The institutional devices available in the world to redress the citizens’ grievances are many and varied. In India, several institutional experimentations have been made at the different levels – Centre, state and local, but the problem remains largely unresolved. Dissatisfaction with governmental operations, especially at the cutting-edge levels where government meets the people directly, namely post office, bank counter, railway booking office etc., is widespread. The issue of corruption in public administration has, again and again, come up for discussion at different levels and in different forms. Keeping in view the endemic inefficiency in the government and its general insensitivity to the clientele, the usefulness of the Ombudsman or any other grievance-handling machinery would be of great help if implemented with sincerity. Already an Ombudsman has been created for the banking sector, and in Kerala, the institution of local government Ombudsman has been set up.
Citizens’ Charter Initiative
The Citizens’ Charter initiative is the latest mechanism to define the relationship between citizens and administration. It demands from the government and other service providers that a certain degree of accountability, transparency, quality and choice of services be made available to the people. The concept of the Citizens’ Charter was initiated following the Common Cause Initiative in the UK in 1994 during the regime of John Major. The Citizens’ Charter is no doubt an innovative mechanism. However, its formulation and enforcement is no easy task. Precise standards of performance have to be set. There has to be somebody or an authority to – monitor performance and watch violations and maintenance. The citizens have to play an active role in giving timely and necessary feedback about services rendered by the government agencies, Within the organisations, the employees must be well-prepared to serve the public as per the agreed-upon standards.
The Prime Minister of India inaugurated a Conference of the Chief Secretaries in November 1996 on “An agenda for an effective and responsive administration” in order to restore the faith’ of the people in the fairness and efficiency of the administration at different levels. It was admitted that the public agencies had been inward-looking and alienated from the people. The Government of India has since introduced Citizens’ Charters in a number of departments and agencies with a public interface like Income Tax departments, the LIC, the Railways, the CPWD etc. The Charter places the citizens at the centre of administration, instead of treating them as passive recipients of services.
The Citizens’ Charter is usually framed on the basis of the following principles:
- Wide publicity on the standards of performance of public agencies.
- Assured quality of services
- Access to information along with courtesy and helpful attitude.
- Simplified procedures for receipt of complaints and their quick.
- Provision of performance scrutiny with citizens’ involvement.
Greater concern for accountability to the public has led to innovative schemes in countries like the Philippines and Malaysia. In 1994, the Philippines Civil Service Commission launched a citizens’ satisfaction campaign called Citizen Now. Not Later. The campaign involved the adoption of standard norms of conduct and courtesy to clients. The Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU) has designed the ‘Client’s Charter’, which is a written commitment aiming at the delivery of outputs or services to an agency’s clients. Should an agency Tail to comply with the stated quality standards, as per its Charter, the public can use this as a ‘basis for complaints’ against non-compliance. In the same vein, several other initiatives on a citizen-administration interface are taking place worldwide.
Another dimension of the citizen-administration relationship that cannot be overlooked is the increased accessibility of citizens to the administration. This has been possible due to the recent accent on ‘governance. The information age paradigm shift has redefined the fundamentals of administration and has changed the institutions and mechanisms of delivery of goods and services forever. Knowledge-based society enables the sharing of vast escalation on a global scale almost instantaneously, which consequently helps in selecting, absorbing and adopting relevant technology and services. The focus today is on the users’ needs. Many developed countries have already taken recourse to e-governance to increase the effectiveness of the interface between citizens and public administration and to improve the efficiency of administrative structures and processes.
The essential ingredients of the citizen-administration relationship are adequate knowledge of administrative norms, practices and structures for both citizens and administration; positive évaluation of the job performance of government officials; and perceptions of the administrative system as sensitive and responsive to the public, rather than inflexible and remote. In the present scenario where the economy, culture and society are changing, the situation demands a forging of a new equilibrium between the bureaucracy and the citizens. The goal of the bureaucracy must be to create an administration-citizen interface based on participation, information, belief, confidence and action-orientedness that tends to meet the expectations of the citizens. Simultaneously, the attitude of citizens, self-help groups, corporations, associations of all kinds, and private institutions must also be supportive of the public authorities when genuine public interest is being served. Various mechanisms such as Citizens’ Charters, Ombudsman-like institutions, and participatory devices have been introduced to facilitate the redressal of citizens’ grievances. These need to be revamped to strengthen the interface between citizens and administration in a positive direction.