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IASbaba’s GYAN ON TACKLING ETHICS – PART I

  • IASbaba
  • September 7, 2015
  • 21
UPSC Articles
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GYAN ON SOME IMPORTANT ASPECTS OF ETHICS ANSWER WRITING

 

Must ReadComprehensive Strategy for Ethics

This will be a series of articles on some of the sensitive yet important aspects of Ethics portion of UPSC syllabus. Time to time, Baba will come up with such important articles to make sure, you stand ahead in terms of thought process, uniqueness and better understanding of Ethics topics 🙂 Hope you people appreciate the efforts and make full use of it.

Here we are going to discuss Two important aspects 

  • QUALITY OF PUBLIC SERVICE DELIVERY SYSTEM
  • WORK CULTURE

 

Quality of public service delivery

This concept has to be understood w.r.t. two different angles. The first one deals with the quality of services being provided to the poor sections of the population. These services are usually provided free of cost or are subsidised by the government. Examples of such services include education, healthcare, sanitation, social security net etc. These services are in tune with the DPSPs which are not only fundamental to the governance of the country but also imperative for inclusive human development.

The second one on the other hand deals with those services for which the government charges the citizens for service delivery e.g. passport, driving license, gas and electricity connection, telephone services etc. Since the citizens pay for the services, they expect time bound delivery of quality services without much hassles and inconvenience.

What is common with both these aspects is that both of them have public servants or the so called bureaucrats at the forefront. It is because of the prominent role played by the bureaucracy that an understanding of the present status of public service delivery and underlying challenges assumes importance for us.

 

Now we deal with the first angle. 

It is imperative that a high quality of basic services such as health and education be provided to all citizens, since these are not only ends in themselves, but also play a critical role in enhancing individual capabilities to participate fully in the growth of the economy.

Central and state governments have recognized this as a priority area, but have shown a lack of imagination in addressing the problem of service quality by focusing mostly on increasing spending and not enough on the question of how effectively the resources allocated are spent.

There are large and glaring inefficiencies in service delivery in India. In a study, it was we found that on a typical working day, 25 percent of teachers in government schools and 40 percent of medical workers in government health clinics are absent from work.

These measures of absence are based on direct physical observation as opposed to official records (which are often faked) and this is a bare minimum estimate of the problem, because in many cases providers are present but not actively working. It means that less than half of the teachers are engaged in teaching activity. Since salaries account for over 90 percent of the non-plan budget in education, nearly half the resources allocated to education are potentially being wasted.

The state-level variation is even more troubling because poorer states have significantly higher levels of provider absence in both health and education. Absentee doctors and teachers are rampant in many backward states. Thus, the states that have the greatest need for improved health and education are also the ones where increased spending on its own is least likely to make a significant impact on outcomes. Some of the ways to improve the quality of services have been explained below.

 

Performance-based bonus payments

A common misconception is that government employees are not paid well enough, while the reality is that the typical government teacher is paid three to ten times more than a typical teacher in a rural private school.

However, while salaries are high, the pay does not in any way depend on any measure of performance, which means that there is no incentive for good performance. One solution to this problem would be to link a portion of the salary to objective measures of performance.

Even providing small monetary bonus payments to teachers on the basis of the average improvement in student performance on independently administered tests can lead large gains in student learning outcomes.

 

Contractual structure of employment

Another promising way of improving effectiveness of service delivery is to modify the contractual structure of employment to make job renewal subject to satisfactory performance as measured by both administrators and the community that is being served. A good example is the use of contract teachers who are hired locally at the village level.

Contract teachers are significantly less likely to be absent and are much more likely to be engaging in teaching activity even though they are paid much less.

Providing schools with extra contract teachers is a highly cost effective way of improving learning outcomes. The key features of this arrangement are that the teachers belong to the same local communities that they are serving, and that the renewal of their contract is subject to satisfactory performance.

 

Greater empowerment of communities

As the discussion above illustrates, local control over employment can be a powerful source of improved incentives for service providers. This can be taken even further by giving locally elected bodies more control over the schools and clinics meant to serve them.

This could encompass not only hiring, retention, performance bonuses and other personnel policies, but could also include cash block grants that allow local communities to customize spending according to local priorities.

While the potential for leakages and capture by local elites remains strong, combining decentralization with greater transparency of information on spending as per the Right to Information Act laws offers a promising way of empowering communities to obtain better health and education outcomes for themselves.

 

Direct empowerment of individuals

One response to the poor quality of public schools and clinics is the increasing prevalence of private schools and clinics even in backward parts of the country. A key feature of private providers is the much higher level of accountability of their employees.

This is not surprising since private providers have to compete for their users and can only survive if people choose to use them. However, while private providers may be more efficient and respond better to the needs users, the problem is that these facilities are only available to those who can afford to pay for them, which puts them out of the reach of the poor.

A promising way of addressing this problem is for the government to directly provide health and education grants or vouchers to the poor, which in turn would be redeemable at any recognized school or clinic (that would be subject to some basic regulation).

The attractiveness of such a scheme is that it harnesses the power of incentives and competition to ensure efficient production that is sensitive to what the users want while avoiding the biggest weakness of the market – which is that it only caters to those with purchasing power.

 

Direct distribution of largesse and empowerment of individuals

Recent initiatives have changed the focus and demonstrated the effectiveness of these initiatives. Biggest of such initiative is Unique Identity scheme known as Aadhaar, which can facilitate transfer of cash benefits directly to people who are in need and reducing multiple touch points.

Pilot projects have shown that it has helped reduce cost drastically by cutting middleman, removing black marketers and corrupt practices of public distribution system, which includes bureaucrats and money-making middleman. However, schemes like above will take time to reach all masses and to disrupt well-established age-old system of corrupt practices.

In conclusion, it is clear that improving the quality of health and education services for all Indians is a critical component of ensuring ‘inclusive growth’. While budgetary increases for health and education are definitely welcome, their effect will be magnified if accompanied by measures to improve the effectiveness of spending.

In particular, the lack of both accountability and performance incentives for government employees in health and education is an enormous hurdle for effective service delivery.

 

Now, we consider the second angle.

The public sector is often compared with the private sector in terms of work culture and other aspects. The major perceptions are:

  1. The public sector is obsessed with process where the private sector’s priority is purpose;
  2. In the private sector, responsibility and authority rest in the same place, in the person of the entrepreneur, but in the public sector it is usually unclear where they lie in complicated structures;
  3. The public sector acknowledges little relationship between job security and performance;
  4. There is a big difference in public and private sector concepts of the work ethic;
  5. Survival in the private sector depends on the ability to face facts as they are, but promotion in the public sector depends on the ability to manipulate and influence others in the hierarchy;
  6. The private sector demands that the individual accepts the consequences of his actions; and
  7. The public sector is all about power, but private business exists only if it gives others what they want.

Thus it is clear that citizens perceive the government machinery as marked with inefficiency, non-accountability, corruption, opaqueness, laid back attitude and indifference. Although, not all government functionaries can be painted with the same brush, it is true that many a times ordinary citizens are harassed to have their legitimate demands fulfilled. In order to change this, te government ah come up with the following initiative.

Sevottam

Sevottam literally is the combination of Hindi words ‘SEWA + UTTAM’, meaning uttam sewa i.e. excellence in services. The Sevottam model was developed with expert support after studying international best practices, stake-holder consultations and field validity. It has basically three modules – Citizen Charter, Public Grievance Redress Mechanism and Service Delivery Capability.

  1. Citizen Charter and Service Standards– Citizen Charter is the document where a public sector Organization declares its key services along with delivery timelines and requirements. Sevottam focuses on the formulation, monitoring and review of Citizen Charter to ensure the organization promises what it can deliver and delivers what it has promised.
  2. Public Grievances – Here Sevottam focuses on receipt, redressal and prevention of grievances.
  3. Service Delivery Enablers – This includes the key pillars which are required to give excellent service and includes Customer Feedback, Employee Motivation and infrastructure.

Each of the modules is further divided into three criteria and eleven elements each. The framework helps Government Departments towards improving their public service delivery.

The Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances has developed a model for benchmarking Excellence in Public Service Delivery through Sevottam. The model provides the frame work to organizations to assess and improve the quality of service delivery for the citizens. It involves the identification of the services delivered to the citizens, quality of service, its objective, improvement of quality, by using innovative methods for developing business process and more informative with the help of information technology.

Sevottam targets stated needs like

  • Timeliness: Time norms for specific services are enumerated in Citizens’ Charter.
  • Effectiveness: A single window system for service deliverables is targeted to cut down on citizens shuttling from one desk to another to get services.
  • Responsiveness: A robust grievance redressal system is needed to listen to citizens’ grievance as well as redress them timely.
  • Courteousbehaviour: Norms for behaviour and pro-active feedback on service delivery.
  • Information: Facilitation centers and help centers are targeted to meet citizens’ needs of information.
  • Empathy: Public grievance officers are needed to listen to citizens in their time of need.

 

 

Work Culture

 

An organization is formed to achieve certain goals and objectives by bringing individuals together on a common platform and motivating them to deliver their level best. It is essential for the employees to enjoy at the workplace for them to develop a sense of loyalty towards it.

Work culture plays an important role in extracting the best out of employees and making them stick to the organization for a longer duration. The organization must offer a positive ambiance to the employees for them to concentrate on their work rather than interfering in each others work.

 

What is work culture?

Work culture is a concept which deals in the study of:

  • Beliefs, thought processes, attitudes of the employees.
  • Ideologies and principles of the organization.

It is the work culture which decides the way employees interact with each other and how an organization functions.

In layman’s language work culture refers to the mentality of the employees which further decides the ambiance of the organization.

An organization is said to have a strong work culture when the employees follow the organization’s rules and regulations and adhere to the existing guidelines. However there are certain organizations where employees are reluctant to follow the instructions and are made to work only by strict procedures. Such organizations have a poor work culture.

 

Characteristics of a Healthy work Culture

  • A healthy work culture leads to satisfied employees and an increased productivity.
  • Employees must be cordial with each other. One must respect his fellow worker. Backbiting is considered strictly unprofessional and must be avoided for a healthy work culture. One gains nothing out of conflicts and unnecessary politics at work.
  • Each employee should be treated as one. Partiality leads to demotivated employees and eventually an unhealthy work culture. Employees should be judged only by their work and nothing else. Personal relationships should take a backseat at the workplace. Don’t favour anyone just because he is your relative.
  • Appreciating the top performers is important. Praise the employees to expect good work from them every time. Give them a pat on their back. Let them feel indispensable for their organization. Don’t criticize the ones who have not performed well, instead ask them to pull up their socks for the next time. Give them one more opportunity rather than firing them immediately.
  • Encourage discussions at the workplace. Employees must discuss issues among themselves to reach to better conclusions. Each one should have the liberty to express his views. The team leaders and managers must interact with the subordinates frequently. Transparency is essential at all levels for better relationships among employees and a healthy work culture. Manipulating information and data tampering is a strict no at the workplace. Let information flow in its desired form.
  • Organization must have employee friendly policies and practical guidelines. Expecting an employee to work till late night on his birthday is simply impractical. Rules and regulations should be made to benefit the employees. Employees must maintain the decorum of the organization. Discipline is important at the workplace.
  • The “Hitler approach” does not fit in the current scenario. Bosses should be more like mentors to the employees. The team leaders should be a source of inspiration for the subordinates. The superiors are expected to provide a sense of direction to the employees and guide them whenever needed. The team members should have an easy access to their boss’s cabin.
  • Promote team building activities to bind the employees together. Conduct training programs, workshops, seminars and presentations to upgrade the existing skills of the employees. Prepare them for the tough times. They should be ready under any odd circumstances or change in the work culture.

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