The Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC), Public Service Delivery Division (PSDD) under Cabinet Secretariat, Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) and UNDP Bhutan have embarked on an initiative to improve public service delivery by engaging citizens in its monitoring and assessment. The pilot project is being led by Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC).
The initiative started in February 2021 and since then, the multi-agency task force has made tremendous progress, designing a citizen-centric Monitoring and Assessment Framework (MAF).
RCSC Commissioner Lhendup Wangchuk said, “We are now planning interventions to address some of the major issues that we identified with the help of citizens. For instance, we will soon be piloting training on emotional intelligence and empathy for the service providers.”
He said that the output of the initiative is to develop a tool for citizens to monitor and assess the quality of public services. The MAF intends to achieve this by collecting perspectives and experiences of citizens and turning them into scores.
The MAF has six “parameters”, which are dimensions of public service delivery found to influence citizens’ satisfaction the most.
“We see complaints about poor service delivery, especially on social media. The MAF will provide a formal platform for citizens to give feedback and voice their dissatisfaction, based on which service providers will be able to assess the shortcomings and re-design their services accordingly,” he added.
They are planning to revisit the service delivery standard of a commonly availed service. The in-depth interviews carried out with service users and providers brought to light the essential role empathy plays in public service delivery.
In order to demonstrate the value of delivering services with empathy, he said that they are working with experts to co-design an empathy module for service providers. It will attempt to model specific skills, techniques and behaviours to be adopted and contextualized at the workplace, he added.
Meanwhile, he said that while citizen engagement is generally considered important, they have not had the means to gather feedback from service receivers in a systematic manner. The MAF is an experiment to test how well they are able to capture the citizens’ feedback, and how effective the tool is in closing the feedback loop and bridging the accountability gap.
“It is essential that after the experiment, MAF be institutionalized so that it can be effectively scaled up. This will not be easy and we may face criticism, but I think this is something that we must take forward. Currently, we do not give enough voice to service receivers in designing, providing and evaluating public services. From this standpoint, I feel this is a major initiative,” he said.
They are having consultations with diverse stakeholders, generating ideas on how the civil service can add value to take Bhutan to the next level. Even though this initiative was not conceived to directly serve the reform, it represents an incremental reform that can kick-start and feed into the broader, long-term reforms.
“Public service delivery being one of the most contentious issues in the country, we believe this initiative will have a significant impact.”
This initiative is not (and should not be) provider-led, he said, adding that they need cooperation from citizens to provide feedback, and not to remain silent. “I would like to urge the public to stay tuned and actively engage in this transformative initiative, so that we can collectively improve public services in the country,” he said.