Friday, 05 December 2014 09:18

LSP welcomes decision to enact Delivery of Services Guarantee Act

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The Loksatta Party has welcomed the Maharashtra government’s decision to enact the Delivery of Services Guarantee Act as announced by Maharashtra Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao in his address to the joint session of the state legislature last month.

In his speech outlining the agenda of the Devendra Fadnavis government, Governor Rao said: “The objective of my government is ‘minimum government, maximum governance’ and, hence, the government is committed to deliver time-bound services to the citizens in a transparent manner,” He added that the government will enact a Delivery of Services Guarantee Act, which is an endeavour to assure citizens of their right to timely, efficient, effective and transparent public service.

“The government will also bring about delegation and decentralisation of powers, simplification of laws and procedures, self-certification by citizens and will do away with unnecessary affidavits, and multiple permissions under similar laws,” Governor Rao said.

The Loksatta Party has been demanding since 2005 such an act for all government services. Most recently, the demand was part of its “Vote Mumbai” campaign that aimed at reforming the system of governance by propelling citizens’ involvement.

The Loksatta Party has lauded the government for taking up the issue and hopes it will expedite the Act’s implementation. The Delivery of Services Guarantee Act will guarantee prompt government services to citizens and also offer legal recourse if they do not get services within a stipulated time. The Act can be an important weapon in the anti-corruption armoury in addition to the Right to Information Act of 2005. It can go a long way in making government officials answerable and accountable, thus giving the fight against corruption a boost.

LSP state general secretary Rajeev D. Pai said: “The government must ensure that the law is complete and provides clear remedial measures in cases where the guaranteed service is not delivered within the stipulated time. LSP would be happy to help with suggestions in this regard.”

Pai added, “The state government must also look at strengthening the Lokayukta in Maharashtra which is currently a toothless body and setting up Lokadhikaris for every district.”

LSP state president Dr Kedar Diwan said: “A services delivery guarantee act that is comprehensive and covers all aspects of government interface with the public will help to curb corruption and harassment of the people to a large extent. Along with the RTI and a strong Lokpal/Lokayukta this will help to curtail the everyday corruption that the aam aadmi and aurat have to contend with even for routine tasks.”

Loksatta, in its draft bill submitted to the Select Committee of the Lok Sabha in 2013, included key points that could help bring about an effective service delivery guarantee act. Some of the provisions that the Maharashtra government should take into account while drafting the Act are as follows:

1.      Synergy among information, grievance redress and services delivery frameworks: The framework for ensuring disclosure of information under the RTI Act and for redressing grievances under the Delivery of Services Guarantee Act must be synergised. In effect, the Commission overseeing the implementation of the RTI Act should also oversee Grievance Redress under the Service Guarantee Bill.

2.      Scope of Citizens’ Charters under the Delivery of Services Guarantee Act: The scope of citizens’ charters shall be defined sharply to ensure that all goods and services which are amenable to timely delivery of services and any violation of order, rule of law pertaining to that department are covered by the enforceable charters. Organisations such as non-governmental organisations, companies etc., should be given the same rights as citizens in respect of charters, and redress of grievances.

3.      Local Lokadhikari (ombudsmen): A provision should be incorporated for the creation of a Lokadhikari in each district and Municipal Corporation to act as the designated authority for the purposes of the Delivery of Services Guarantee Act.

4.      Mandatory penalty, compensation and reward: The Delivery of Services Guarantee Act, in addition to the proposed penalty for the erring public servants, should mandate compensation for the appellant. Complementing the penalty mechanism, the bill should provide reward mechanisms to actively promote better public service delivery.

5.      Continuous improvement of Service Delivery: The Delivery of Services Guarantee Act should provide for continuous improvement in the public service delivery process. It should mandate a feedback mechanism duly instituted in each department. Further, the feedback should be compiled periodically with an action-taken report to be published for the public. The Commission under the Delivery of Services Guarantee Act overseeing its implementation should be entrusted with dissemination of best practices and assist in capacity building process of public servants. The Commission should also be mandated to ensure that every public authority shall be Sevottam-certified in a span of five years. The Maharashtra government should institute this Sevottam standard (IS 15700:2005) to encourage public authorities to specifically institute citizen's charters and grievance redress mechanisms and build adequate capacity for effective implementation of the charters and redress mechanisms.

Pai said with these provisions in the Bill, Maharashtra would have an effective institutional setup for ensuring timely delivery of goods and services, giving citizens great relief and satisfaction in dealing with the government machinery.