Using citizen’s feedback to improve services in public sector

Published: August 20, 2011

Experts at a seminar emphasise the importance of Citizen Report Cards. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

Citizen Report Cards are vital to ensure social accountability for provision of pro-poor public service delivery to the masses.

This was the consensus among speakers at a seminar on “Implementing Citizen report cards in slums”, organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Thursday. The speakers urged the need for structural and radical reforms for accountability and good governance in the country, said a press release issued by the SDPI.

SDPI Senior Research Associate Gulbaz Ali Khan said that Citizen Report Cards (CRCs) are participatory surveys that seek user feedback on the performance of public services.

He explained CRCs as an approach towards building accountability that relies on civic engagement in which ordinary citizens and civil society organisations become part of the monitoring and accountability process directly or indirectly.

He said the CRCs turns out to be a mirror for the government that aggregates user perceptions on performance of public services.

“By systematically gathering and disseminating public feedback, CRCs serve as a surrogate for competition for state-owned monopolies that lack the incentive to be as responsive as private enterprises to their client’s needs,” he said.

He added SDPI in collaboration with Affiliated Network for Social Accountability South Asia Region has started a project that uses CRCs to assess user’s satisfaction with the provision of quality of education in public schools in the target areas.  The overall objective of the project is to improve secondary level education for male and female students in two slums settlements of Islamabad, Alipur Farash and Hansa Colony.

The various accountability systems introduced in Pakistan over the years by different regimes were not able to do well, Khan said. He added that we have added layers of accountability systems one after another and every initiative resulted in institutional dichotomies, inefficiencies, setting the stage for further corruption.

He termed the Local Government System 2001 as one of the best systems to monitor public office bearers and identified five institutions of state as most critical for reforms such as finance, revenue, administration, judiciary and police to effectively manage the affairs of public.

Summing up the debate, Chairperson Centre for Research and Security Studies Imtiaz Gul said we should also look into the strong nexus of bureaucracy and politicians and stressed upon the need for community oversight and structural barriers to ensure checks and balances in improving public service delivery to the public, especially the most disadvantaged.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2011.

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