Citizen Report Card - A powerful social audit tool

November 23, 2018

A Citizen Report Card or CRC is a participatory social audit tool based on user feedback on public service delivery. CRC is a tool that engages citizens in assessing the quality of public services such as health, education, public transportation and other public distribution systems. It is a collective reflection of citizens’ feedback on the performance of a service provider formed by their experience of actually having used a particular service for a period of time.

 

The strength of a CRC lies in its ability to quantify user feedback based on a representative sample. This is usually done by gathering and disseminating user feedback in a systematic form, to initiate reforms by eliciting public service providers using the information gathered from a representative sample.

 

Usually a survey is used as the tool to undertake a CRC in order to assess the overall performance of a public agency based on perceptions of users on quality and satisfaction to specific attributes of services such as access, availability, quality and reliability in addition to agency responsiveness and transparency. If applied regularly over periods of time, they can become benchmarks as is seen in the case of the Rwanda, where the Rwanda Governance Board undertakes a CRC on a yearly basis since 2010 (RGB).  CRC can and has revealed hidden costs incurred by users in the form of bribes and corruption while seeking access to or using a particular service.

 

Citizen Report Card was pioneered in the 90s by Public Affairs Centre located in Bangalore, India. It has been widely applied by civil society organisations, governments and multilateral donor agencies across the world including Ukraine, the Philippines, Vietnam, Ghana, Sweden, Denmark, United Kingdom, Egypt, and the United States of America.

CRC is seen as a tool which aims to introduce market-type incentives to the functioning of public services which unlike private companies do not face competition and lack the incentive to respond to client needs (Pekkonen). Hence, “Citizen report cards are public accountability mechanisms based on citizen surveys of the performance and quality of government services – by allowing citizens to monitor the state performance. (World Bank)”

 

 

Why use a Citizen Report Card?

A CRC provides quantitative information on public service delivery from the users’ perspective which can:

  • Aggregate and communicate people’s [poor] realities to government officials, decision-makers and the public

  • Identify changes and suggest improvements in public service agencies

  • Help prioritize reform efforts and allocate public resources

  • Foster citizen voice, discussion and debate to demand reform

  • Treat users of public services as clients or customers whose voices matter in the design, delivery and assessment of public services

 

 The process of undertaking a CRC includes six steps, which are:

 

Step 1. Assessment of local conditions

  • Evaluate the local conditions to determine and plan the suitable implementation of CRC and assess the skills and motivation of the individuals who will be involved in the undertaking the CRC

Step 2. Pre-survey groundwork

  • This is an important step in the process as this step is used to identify the scope of the CRC, develop preliminary plans of implementation including work plan and resource allocation, design the survey instrument (questionnaire, discussion guidelines), and complete the sampling design​

Step 3. Conducting the survey

  • This step is where the actual groundwork takes place - need to ensure the accuracy of the survey to satisfy the objectives outlined. this step also includes quality checks of the survey

Step 4. Post survey analysis

  • This step is where the main CRC report is generated which determines the key findings on availability, usage, satisfaction in the form of a database of user feedback, analysis tables such as cross tabulations and frequency distribution

Step 5. Dissemination of findings

  • The findings are disseminated to key stakeholders. The mode of dissemination varies across organisations and contexts, some examples include - press conferences, newspaper and TV coverages, written reports and posters targeted to the audience, individual presentation to service providers

Step 6. Improving services 

  • This is the last step where findings of the CRC is used to help bring about improvements

  • The approach can vary across contexts but a few examples include - exchanging, best practices; workshops and meetings among service providers and community; awareness and dialogue campaigns

 

What is needed to undertake an effective Citizen Report Card

 

To undertake a Citizen Report Card, the World Bank identifies the following as a crucial requirement:

  • A constructive approach on part of the undertaking CSOs rather than a confrontational approach

  • A commitment to gather credible data on users’ perspectives

  • A commitment by the public agency to engage in the process and be open to critical analysis of its service delivery and the initiative to reform based on the findings

  • Active involvement of mass media to ensure the findings are widely disseminated and debated

 

Benefits and Challenges of using Citizen Report Card

 

Benefits

  • Enhances public awareness on issues related to service quality, empowers citizens to proactively demand accessibility, greater accountability and responsiveness from service providers

  • The service providers cannot ignore the findings of the CRC as the knowledge (data) generated is experience driven, quantified and scientifically analysed

  • Facilitates open discussions on the performance of service agencies and leads to reforms to improve the quality of services

  • Facilitates partnerships between citizens, CSOs and public service agencies through enhancing social capital by uniting communities around issues of shared concern

 

Challenges

  • CRCs are successful in contexts where policymakers and service agencies are open to civil society/citizen advocacy for bringing in reforms

  • Crucial to ensure that meetings between citizens and public officials remain constructive and focused and do not turn into a forum for personal attacks

  • Need for sustained follow-up to ensure that institutional resistance or the lack of will to act on the findings among public service authorities does not occur

  • Conducting a large survey might be a high resource [human and financial] consumptive process

  • Public needs to be regularly informed and cautioned against expecting too much too soon as it can lead to the citizen disillusionment if there is no improvement in the quality of services (Pekkonen)

 

Example case: “Rural Decentralisation and participatory planning for poverty reduction”– a study undertaken by Public Affairs Centre

 

 This study was a joint initiative of the government of Chhattisgarh, a state in east India and supported by the UNDP and the Planning Commission of India. The overall objective of the study was to “provide catalytic support and create an enabling environment for decentralisation of state level and strengthen endowments of the local government with sufficient autonomy and resources to respond to local needs.”

 

The specific objectives were: 

  • Strengthen decentralisation of decision-making and development planning

  • Strengthen transparency and accountability of local governance

  • Support enhanced devolution and autonomy of local institutions through facilitating policy making for decentralisation

 

The study was undertaken in two districts of the state, Bastar and Rajnandgaon and assessed the program for the year 2005-06 and aided in developing micro-plans for each of the village covered under the study.  The process of the CRC is explained in the figure below:

 

Step 1. Assessment of local conditions

  • Stakeholder meetings were held to understand the current service delivery aspects and issue that were to be assessed and a detailed profile of the study area was developed

Step 2. Pre-survey groundwork

  • Post stakeholder meetings, a pilot survey was conducted using a structured interview questionnaire for gathering primary information on - Mid-day meals; public delivery systems; health; sanitation; drinking water and henceforth

Step 3. Conducting the survey

  • A full-scale CRC survey was undertaken following the pre-survey groundwork to capture aspects of - access patterns/ service quality/conlfict resoultion/ interactions/ corruption/ satisfaction and also gathered suggestions for improvements

Step 4. Post survey analysis

  • An analysis was undertaken to assess the usage patterns/ quality of service delivered/levels of interactions/corruption/satisfaction were cross tabulated and frequency distribution tables generated using statistical tools

Step 5. Dissemination of findings

  • Focussed presentations in addition to reports and documents were shared with officials of the local government

  • Brochures and pamphlets on the issues identified were designed and shared with stakeholders

  • Wall paintings and short videos on the need for micro-planning and the process were also developed and screened in the study areas

  • Radio programmes on bottom-up planning and community participation were developed and boradcasted in the local radio channel

  • Issues related to micro-planning were published on a bi-monthly basis as a newspaper and shared at the grassroot levels

Step 6. Improving services

  • The findings were complied and developed into micro plans for each village and local level resource persons were identified and oriented towards facilitation

  • Training of department workers was undertaken to facilitate participatory planning

  • Planning committees were constituted at the village level

 

More on Citizen Report Cards

 

Public Affairs Centre which pioneered the citizen report card has conducted several Citizen Report Card exercises within India across sectors covering Water supply, Electricity supply, Urban service delivery, Educational reform, Health care and Public Distribution of Food. More details can be found on the website: http://pacindia.org/

 

Public Affairs Foundation, the sister organization of Public Affairs Centre in collaboration has conducted CRC within India and across the globe in partnership with agencies such as World Bank, Asian Development Bank, UNDP etc.  more details can be found on the website: http://pafglobal.org/

 

Other Resources: Public Affairs Centre in partnership with the Asian Development Bank has developed a Self-learning course on Citizen Report Card is accessible freely at http://www.citizenreportcard.com/

 

References:

 

ADB and ADBI  (2007): Improving Local Governance and Service Delivery Citizen Report Card Learning Tool Kit. Print Version of the Learning Toolkit. Asian Development Bank and Asian Development Bank Institute.

 

Bauhoof, S., Tkacheva, O., Rabinovich, L., & Bogdan, O. (2016): Developing citizens report cards for primary care: evidence from qualitative research in rural Tajikistan. Health and Policy Planning , 259-266.

 

Pekkonen, A. (n.d.): Citizen Report Cards. Tool kit: Citizen Report Cards. CIVICUS.

 

Public Affairs Centre. (n.d.): Improving Loal Governance and Pro-Poor Service Delievery. Retrieved from Citizen Report Card Learning Toolkit.

 

Rawanda Governance Board. (2016): Rawanda Citizen Report Card. Rawanda Governance Board.

 

RGB Rwanda (n.d.) : Cititzen Report Card.

 

Sekhar, S., Nair, M., & K, P. (2008): Public services provided by gram panchayats in Chhattisgarh . Raipur & Bangalore : Samarthan & Public Affairs Centre.

 

World Bank. (n.d.): Citizen Report Cards. Tool and Practices 16

 

 

About the Author:

Arvind Lakshmisha was associated with the Public Affairs Centre (PAC) and has aided in the development of social accountability tools such as the climate change score cards during his time there.

 

Contact: If you would like to give feedback, or are interested in our courses or support. Please contact: Sohini Paul

 

 

 

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