Success/Failure Case Study No.21
SETU: A Citizen Facilitation Centre in India
Case Study Authors
Dr. Vijay Satbir Singh (email@example.com)
SETU or the Citizen Facilitation Centre is a one-stop service centre for citizens who have to visit government offices for certificates, permits, authentication, affidavits and other services. It was set up by the government of Maharashtra state in India in the city of Aurangabad (population c. 1m). In the local language, SETU means a 'bridge' to connect the administration with the general public. At present, citizens spend a lot of time moving from one office to another or from one table to another in the same office to submit their application and documents, making enquiries about their case and completing other related formalities. At times, they take the help of local agents who charge some fee and help them in writing and submitting the applications. These agents mostly operate without any legal authority. The Centre therefore attempts to apply ICTs to provide greater transparency, accessibility and efficiency to the procedures in decision making. It also makes use of the Web to make information available to the clients. The Centre has 15 computers, 10 printers and a staff of 28 persons including technical personnel, assistants and clerks. There are 10 counters for citizens to present their applications.
The District Collector in India heads the government administration in a district, and acts as the nodal agency for most government schemes and programmes. The general public comes to the Collectorate or office of the District Collector and subordinate offices for a variety of certificates, permits and other important documents. The Citizen Facilitation Centre started in October 2001. A total of 34 types of certificates were identified that are issued by the district and sub-district offices. The most important and frequently issued certificates are the ones related to domicile, nationality, caste, age verification, solvency, character verification, income and occupation. The applicant gives his/her application at the counter where the operator enters key data and makes an initial scrutiny. If the information is complete, the applicant is given a token bearing a unique number and the date of response. The certificate is given after further scrutiny of the application. Service charges are liable to be refunded if the certificate is delayed.
Apulki Seva Sanstha, an NGO, has been given the job of running the Centre, charging a small fee for its services. This organisation also spent US$14,500 out of its own funds to purchase computers and related accessories. The Centre works on holidays and after office hours on a two-shift basis.
The main objective is the provision of important public services to citizens under a common platform with more efficiency in 'a non-hostile environment felt necessary to reduce the number of visits'. Another objective is greater transparency in office procedures. Faster decision making and disposal of files relating to the general public is necessary to increase the productivity of public offices. Indirect employment generation has been cited as another goal.
Key stakeholders are the general public, especially farmers, labourers, small entrepreneurs and students who require certificates and permits. They want hassle free services with minimum delay and fewer visits to government offices. Other stakeholders are the NGO, and government officials.
Impact: Costs and Benefits
The project has improved working in the Collector's Office and increased efficiency of the government machinery involved:
- The time taken to get certificates after the submission of application complete in all aspects has reduced by 50 to 60 percent.
- Applicants can know the status of their application over the phone instead of going personally to the office.
- The Centre has facilitated the submission of applications by bringing together the concerned officers and services in one location.
- The involvement of middlemen, touts and agents has reduced significantly.
The direct financial cost of the project - around US$41,000 - has been shared by the Government and the NGO.
Evaluation: Failure or Success?
SETU can be adjudged a partial success at present. The Centre has been successful in introducing transparency into official procedures, and in increasing the efficiency of the delivery mechanism after submission of complete applications. However, a complete application requires the presence of many documents issued by other offices at the sub-district or block or village level. The procedure of securing these supporting documents has remained unchanged. The time spent on getting some of these documents can be very large in the absence of bribe money. There can also be no comment about the sustainability or replication of the SETU project at this stage.
Enablers/Critical Success Factors
- Project location . Location in the Collector's Office, the nerve centre of district administration, is definitely an important factor in success. Centres set up in other offices may not succeed so well
- Good human resources . The project has been helped by availability of competent and skilled manpower to manage the Centre, of computer literate government staff, and of a resourceful NGO.
- High-level support . The State Government has taken a proactive role in the project, and there has been project monitoring by both state- and district-level committees chaired by high officials.
- External pressures . There has been continuing pressure from agents and touts, who connive with office employees for their own ends.
- Limited range of services . A number of services promised within the scheme - such as payment of bills or taxes, and online availability of forms and registration procedures - are still be tried and tested.
- Simplify procedures . The procedure to get the supporting documents requires simplification. Only the documents that are absolutely essential should be insisted upon. The subordinate offices should be instructed to issue the documents in a timely manner after completing all their formalities. The number and nature of certificates issued also requires a complete review. Certificates like nationality, domicile and caste can be combined into one thus saving the time, energy and cost of government staff and the public.
- Decentralise procedures . The number of certificates issued by the Collector's Office can be reduced by decentralising functions and delegating more authority to the sub-district offices. Certificates like ration cards, character verification, registration of cable/video operators and solvency certificates should be issued by these offices. Similarly, certificates like the dependency certificate and the certificate of the landless/agriculturist presently issued by the block office can be issued at the village level. This will reduce the workload of the Centre and make it convenient for people to get the certificates locally.
- Get citizen representation . Apart from experts and government officials, it is desirable to involve the representatives of different categories of citizens in project monitoring and implementation. They can be associated with high-level decision making and review committees.
Author Data Sources/Role : Interviews and Observation; No Direct Role.
Outcome : Partial Success/Partial Failure. Reform : eServices (Improving Public Services). Sector : Social Services (Local Authorities).
Region : South Asia. Start Date : 2001. Submission Date : August 2002