The Guntur Municipal Corporation (GMC) covers an area of 45.71 square km and is responsible for the provision of civic services in 52 wards. As per the latest data, there are 110,000 households under GMC, of which only 55 per cent have registered water connections. In addition, of the registered water connections, only 2.2 per cent are metered. The total quantity of water supplied stands at 115 million litres per day. Moreover, against the benchmark of 100 per cent, only 65 per cent of households are covered under GMC’s solid waste management services. The efficiency in the recovery of solid waste collection charges stands at 72 per cent. The civic agency aims to increase its service coverage in the near future.
In the past decade or so, GMC has taken several initiatives to improve its service delivery mechanism. These include the organisation of solid waste disposal programmes, construction of a water filtration plant, laying of pipelines, renovation of the water supply system, establishment of a call centre for complaint redressal and introduction of online tax payment services. One of the key initiatives is the establishment of the citizen service centre (CSC). The facility has significantly streamlined the process for submitting applications, queries and requests for citizens as well as government officials.
The shift to the CSC
Prior to the establishment of the CSC, citizens had to visit several municipal departments to access services. They had to identify the concerned department and contact the relevant officer to submit applications. The applications often moved from department to department and citizens had no means to track their status. Also, the system lacked transparency, often leading to customer dissatisfaction.
The inability of the traditional administration to effectively meet citizens’ needs led to the establishment of the CSC. GMC introduced the facility in 2001 as part of administrative reforms to make the system more transparent and improve the service delivery mechanism. The functioning of the CSC was fully computerised in 2005.
The facility acts as a centralised window for accessing GMC’s services. At the time of submission of the application, the customer is provided an acknowledgement number, which acts as a primary key to monitor the status of application, avoiding the need for frequent visits to the GMC. The application is then sent to the concerned department, which has to address it within the stipulated time frame.
At present, the number of services offered by the CSC stands at 47, as compared to five in 2005. The facility caters to applications for the accounts, administrative, engineering, public health, revenue, and town planning departments, and pension schemes. The applications are related to new water tap connections, new underground drainage connections, issue of birth/death certificates and occupancy certificates, house tax fixation, etc.
Application processing at the CSC is regularly monitored. To monitor the system, the head of the department conducts a regular review of pending applications. Further, the GMC commissioner monitors the performance of the CSC every week. In case an application is not processed within the stipulated time, the concerned department pays Rs 50 per day to the applicant till its processing. This cost is recovered from the employee in charge of the application.
In November 2006, GMC launched a toll-free complaint registration number for lodging complaints if applications are not processed in time. At the time of registering a complaint, citizens are provided a complaint number for tracking the status of the complaint.
Advantages and the way ahead
The CSC has improved citizens’ access to government services. This is evident from the increase in the number of applications received by GMC from 5,332 in 2005 to 30,714 in 2013. Besides, GMC maintains a record of department-wise applications received. In 2013, the public health department accounted for the highest number of applications (52 per cent), followed by the engineering and revenue departments (14 per cent each). Further, the CSC has helped in increasing the efficiency of service delivery by restructuring the application process and utilising management information system (MIS) technology. This has helped both customers and the civic agency to monitor pending applications. Therefore, the system is now more transparent and accountable. Moreover, the CSC has decreased the cost of transaction and the time required to access services. The status of applications can be tracked online, without the need for physically approaching government officials.
GMC’s CSC initiative was appreciated by the Ministry of Urban Development at the National Urban Water Awards in 2010 for initiatives in the citizen services and governance category. Going forward, GMC plans to upgrade various components of the centralised CSC and develop a division-wise CSC for efficient service delivery. This will serve as an example for other urban local bodies to implement similar projects in areas under their jurisdiction.