Abstract: Citizen’s Charter is one of the central policy tools that aims in improving accountability, responsiveness, transparency, performance and quality of public services and as well as private services. Citizen’s charter is a very recent issue and much not been discussed about it in the academic spheres in the context of Bangladesh. In this backcloth, the study would like to argue that the improvements in service delivery system offered by the citizen’s charter in Bangladesh mostly depend on the change in administrative culture and style along with change in administrative systems. The study evaluates the Citizen Charter in accordance with the administrative culture and norms in Bangladesh. Based on the qualitative analysis method and relying on secondary sources it offers an empirical study in this issue. The study first depicts the conceptual issues of Citizen’s Charter later it evaluates the conceptual issue regarding administrative culture and maps the various types of cultural norms in the public bureaucracy of Bangladesh. Formulation of Citizen’s Charter is also discussed and an attempt is made to identify the problems of citizen charter with regard to the administrative culture in Bangladesh.
Keywords: Citizen Charter, Administrative System, Cultural Challenges, Bangladesh.
Citizen’s Charter is one of the central policy tools that aims in improving accountability, responsiveness, transparency, performance and quality of public services and as well as private services. It has been first introduced in the UK by John Major’s government in 1991 to “raise the standard of public services and make them more responsive to their Users” (Cabinet Office. 1992). Bangladesh adopted its first citizen’s charter in 2007 as a way of ensuring transparency, responsiveness and accountability of the administrative service. However, several studies show that the Citizen’s Charters have not made any significant impact on the bureaucratic service mechanism. Since traditional administrative systems in Bangladesh have been criticized by the scholars as over centralized, ineffective, insensitive, inefficient and often hostile to the people they are supposed to serve (Nayem, Z. 2010).
In this backcloth, the study would like to argue that the improvements in service delivery system offered by the citizen’s charter in Bangladesh mostly depend on the change in administrative culture and style along with change in administrative systems.
In the context of Bangladesh, citizen’s charter is a very recent issue and much not been discussed about it in the academic spheres. Therefore, not a very rich literature exists about citizen’s charter and its theoretical context in the case of Bangladesh. Among a very few studies, some analyses its effectiveness from selective service delivery issues (Razzaque, F. 2012b) and some examines its performance from selective institutional case studies. (Momem M. and Kim P.S. 2009). As a result, there is a vacuum in existing literature in exploring this issue with regard to prevailing administrative culture in Bangladesh. Therefore, there is a need for a robust academic study to explore various aspects of citizen’s charter and to improve its effectiveness and performance in Bangladesh. This study intends to offer an empirical study on citizen’s charter in relation to administrative culture in Bangladesh to fulfill the vacuity in academic sphere, at least to a certain extent, and thereby unveil the complex issue of citizen’s charter in Bangladesh.
The study, therefore, evaluates the Citizen Charter in accordance with the administrative culture and norms in Bangladesh. Based on the qualitative analysis method and relying on secondary sources e.g., case studies, scholarly articles, books, newspaper articles etc. the study first depicts the conceptual issues of Citizen’s Charter. Second, it evaluates the conceptual issue regarding administrative culture, later it maps the various types of cultural norms in the public bureaucracy of Bangladesh. Third, formulation of Citizen’s Charter in Bangladesh is discussed and an attempt is made to identify the problems of citizen charter with regard to the administrative culture. Finally, it offers the policy option and conclusion of the findings.
As a strategy of New Public Management, Citizen’s Charter (CC) aims at providing quality services within a particular timeframe and reducing the gap between government and people. The key features of Citizen’s Charter are to improve the quality of public services and to provide better value for money (Rhodes, R.A.W. 1997). The concept of the Citizen’s Charter initiated in the UK in 1991 when the Conservative government lunched it as a national program aiming at improving the quality of public sector services based on the needs and expectations of service users (Morley, D. 1992). Subsequently the idea quickly spread to other developed countries under diverse title including the Public Service Users’ Charter in Belgium (1992), Service Charter in France (1992) and Australia (1997), Quality Charter in Public Services in Portugal (1993), Service Standards Initiative in Canada (1995), and many other developed countries around the world including USA (McGuire, L. 2002). Similarly, inspiring with the UK model, other developing countries including Latin America, Africa, and South-East Asia, also adopted the idea in one form or another as part of their service delivery mechanism in the name of Client’s Charter in Malaysia (1993), Citizen’s Charter in India (1997) and so on (Haque, M.S. 2005).
Likewise, many key international organizations, such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United Nations, and the World Bank have accepted the idea and disseminated it around the world (James, S. 2005).
Since the 1980s, politicians and bureaucrats have in search of effective and accountable service delivery mechanism. In this context, Citizen’s Charter developed and came to practice in the United Kingdom. The basic objective of the Citizen’s Charter is to “empower the citizens in relation to public service delivery” (Cabinet Office ). Originally, the six principles were framed in the Citizen’s Charter in the UK; these are as follows, i. Quality: Improving the quality of services; ii. Choice: Providing choice wherever possible; iii. Standards: Specify what to expect and how to act if standards are not met; iv. Value: Add value for the taxpayers’ money; v. Accountability: Be accountable to individuals and organizations; and vi. Transparency: Ensure transparency in Rules/ Procedures/ Schemes/ Grievances.
Since the adaptation of citizen’s charter around the world, scholars have analyzed it from different points of view and from diverse perspectives. However, the actual meaning of this idea has not get adequate attention from the scholars to addressed, instead scholars have engaged in what the idea is expected to achieve (Keeble, P. 1996). McGuire (McGuire, L. 2002) observes that the Citizen’s Charter as simply a quality assurance strategy that offers a type of consumer guarantee. Although others, consider it as a means to empower the public in their relationship with the public organizations (Drewry, G. 2005a).
On the other hand, some scholars attempt to define it according to its core values. Paul describes, “a Citizen’s Charter is an explicit statement of what a public agency is ready to offer as its services, the rights and entitlements of the people with reference to these services, and the remedies available to them should problems and disputes arise in these transactions” ( Paul, S. 2002). Therefore, citizen’s charter is a statement of public organizations offers to its consumer about what they are going to provide, in what time and in what quality. In similar vain, Torres describes Citizen’s Charter as,
The basic concept of the service charter deals with drawing up a quality-assurance strategy that offers a type of consumer guarantee in order to make providers more responsive to consumers through consultations and more accountable to government and the community through performance monitoring. The general idea of the charter is that the consumer is informed in advance about what kinds of services can be expected, required, and demanded from public authorities (Torres, L. 2005).
Significantly, some views it as a contractual relationship between the consumers and the public service providers, therefore, it could be considered as social contract where service providers accountable for their services or lack thereof (Drewry, G. 2005b, Haque, M.S. 2005, Tritter, J. 1994). As agreed by Tritter, “titling a government document a charter implies a social contract and that rights are secured as a result” (Tritter, J. 1994).
A Citizen’s Charter, therefore, is an understanding between the citizen and the public service provider about the quantity and quality of services citizens receive in exchange for their taxes. It is the obligations of the public servants to meet the needs of citizens according to their expectations. As public services are funded by citizens through taxes, they have the right to expect a particular quality of service efficiently at a reasonable cost from the public servants.
The idea of the Citizen’s Charter was, consequently, to achieve these expected objectives by building consumer’s knowledge, awareness and expectation (Taylor, I. 1999). What the important about this idea is a revolutionary shift of relationship between state and citizens to service provider and consumers.
The other key features of this idea revolving around; the empowering the citizens by putting their needs first rather than the need of bureaucracy (McGuire, L. 2002, Skelcher, C. 1993), promotion and enhancement of accountability of citizens (Wright, D. J. 1996) , and the promotion of the idea of citizenship (Baron, A. and Scott, C. 1992).
In essence, a CC is designed to empower citizens by emphasis their right and requirements and the level of quality of services should meet their expectations. In other words, sovereign power of the consumers in public services recognizes and their autonomy or freedom is guaranteed though CC. The success of a citizen’s charter depends mostly on the civil servants and their willingness towards the citizens in providing accountable and satisfactory service. In this regard, administrative culture together with administrative structure and style are the most important to accomplish the services accordingly.
Administrative culture can be defined as norms and values that shape the bureaucratic attitudes, interpersonal relationship and performance. According to Hofstede (Hofstede, G. 1991), culture is the collective programming of mind that differentiates the member of one group of people from another. In this collective phenomenon, people share their mental state at least partly with others who live or lived within the same social environment. On the other hand, some views administrative culture is as what organization has (Meek, V.L. 1998).
Contemporary theories of administrative culture revolve around mainly in the organizational internal context such as, organizational structure, employees’ work related attitudes, management system (Jamil, I. 2002). Hofstede (Hofstede, G. 1980) develops four dimensional approaches of organizational culture through cross-cultural study as internal context. These four dimensional model includes, i. Power Distance – is the extent to which relationship between superiors and subordinates are egalitarian or hierarchic. ii. Uncertainty avoidance – is the affects the behavior of individuals in the face of uncertainty and the use of mechanisms to cope with this. iii. Individualism – can be describes as a state where high individualistic society indicates loosely knit social framework in which people are supposed to take care of themselves. On the other hand, high collective society indicates a tight social framework where people look after them and exchange feelings. iv. Masculinity – is an attributes of employees that consider doing a good job for organization since effectiveness of an organization depends not only investment and technology but also attitudes and values of employees (Jamil, I. 2007).
However, Jamil (Jamil, I. 1994) develops a cultural framework that incorporate internal context as discussed above and external context as well e.g. bureaucracy’s relationship to politics and society.
This study incorporates both Hofstede and Jamil’s cultural model of administration but limit it only to two internal dimensions as Power distance and Uncertainty avoidance of Hofstede’s model and one external dimension as Bureaucracy’s relationship to politics and society of Jamil’s model. Therefore, these three dimensional organizational framework will be followed to analyze how organizational culture affects successful implementation of citizen’s charter in Bangladesh.
In nutshell, the independent variables of this study are i. Power distance ii. Uncertainty avoidance, and iii. Bureaucracy’s relationship to politics and society. Accordingly, dependent variable is only one that is improvements in service delivery system offered by the citizen’s charter.
Administrative Culture in Bangladesh:
The administrative culture of Bangladesh is predominantly influence by British colonial administrative system (Jamil, I. 2007). Bureaucracy of Bangladesh inherits orientation from British colonial rule where hierarchic administrative system maintained. One of the prominent scholars in this arena, Zafarullah precisely analyzes the orientation of bureaucracy of Bangladesh, “Its [bureaucracy] roots lie in the Civil Service of Pakistan (CSP), which itself had its origins in the Indian Civil Service (ICS) -the ‘steel-frame’ of British colonial rule. Like its forebears, it largely conforms to the structural attributes of the Weberian bureaucratic model” (Zafarullah, H. 2007).
Despite religious, ethnical and linguistic homogeneity, the dominant cultural pattern of Bangladesh seems to be hierarchical. Administrative culture in Bangladesh is subsequently characterized as bureaucratic elitism where public officials maintain horizontal integration and strictly adheres to the principles of self-interest and advance on career ladder. As distinct special social group, they utilize their expertise, specialization and professionalism in the governing process with profound autonomy. Because of inefficiencies of politicians on governance matter, public officials tend to have enormous dominance on policy making and accomplishing policy goals as Zafarullah states, “they are explicit about playing the key role in policy formulation and their desire for absolute discretion in implementing them” (Zafarullah, H. 2007). In similar vein, Jamil analyzes,
The higher civil bureaucracies -the generalist administrators, in particular -have manifested a remarkable resilience even under changing social and political conditions to maintain their ‘supreme’ status in state and society. The prestige, social esteem, influence, authority and permanency of tenure that a position in the prime civil service carries provided the impetus for elitism to further endure in bureaucracies (Jamil, I. 2007).
In nutshell, prevalent administrative culture of Bangladesh does not adequately maintain the appropriate cultural orientation and requirement, which is necessary to provide quality services. It does not motivate people through close, warm and trusting relationships to get benefits and service from government. Therefore, administrative culture of Bangladesh might be characterized as desk-bound, meetings-orientated and operated in an atmosphere of inspection and inhibition. In addition, the administrative culture of Bangladesh is not open, honest, and flexible, where people can hardly get easy access into information and service.
Citizen’s Charter: Development in Bangladesh
Bangladesh has adopted the Citizen’s Charter recently. The initiative first made by the Public Administration Reform Commission in 2000. The initiative was adopted by the Caretaker Government on May 8, 2007 and declared that the “every ministry, division, wing and attached department would formulate and publish CC in their office premises and websites with the stated goal of providing the citizens with high quality service, and ensuring the ambit of transparency, responsiveness and accountability” (Razzaque, F. 2012b).
The introduction of the idea in Bangladesh was a major step towards ensuring good governance. For the first time, bureaucrats were asked to inform the citizens publicly about their duty and responsibility they were entitled to. The main intention of the charter was to make ties between citizens and service providers. It was an expression of understanding between the citizens and service providers about the services to be provided under an obligation.
However, the Citizen’s Charter has been criticized by the scholars from many different points of views. It was formulated by the top-down process, clients or citizens’ voice was not considered in any steps of formation of the charter. In addition, it was originated centrally and specifically local needs were ignored. Furthermore, capacity of the field administrations did not take into account while formulating the charter. In this regard, it has been criticized by the Ministry of Establishment itself as,
existing Citizen’s Charters well often ignored, and rarely used to check service delivery, the performance of the civil service and the needs of the citizens. And that is a waste of the whole idea of Citizen’s Charters. The potential of Citizen’s Charters to improve basic service delivery, to engage the citizens, to improve the performance of the field administration, etc. is so great, it really is worth it to start with the second generation (CSCMP. 2010).
Afterward, with the technical help of UNDP and ADB, the second- generation CC initiative was taken in 2009 and Ministry of Establishment published a citizen’s charter manual on November 2010 aiming at improving the existing situation and reducing the gap between the government and the people. It has been introduced in national and local government with the view of enhancing the excellence of public service delivery in a responsive, transparent and accountable manner. The Key principles of effective CC initiatives are;
1. Set standards of services to meet the needs/expectations of the citizens:
2. Focus on the needs of the citizens and the capacity of the provider:
3. Engage local citizens and service providers in the formulation process:
4. Encourage citizen-civil servant collaboration:
5. Promote transparency through information and monitoring:
6. Establish ‘open’ mechanisms for citizen’s complaints and redress:
7. Reflect value of money through efficiency and cost effectiveness:
8. Require patience, dedication and commitment (CSCMP, 2010) (CSCMP. 2010).
The main objectives of the Citizen’s Charter were to make administration more accountable, responsive, transparent and people-friendly. The charter program initiatives in essence propose to make public service provision less bureaucratic-dominated and more citizen-led. It aims to empower citizens by mentioning their rights, privileges and duties.
However, the recent studies show that the second generation CC, like its predecessor, hardly made any substantial improvement in service delivery at public organizations. There was an ambiguity about the nature and concept of the Citizen’s Charter to the citizens. In the following section the practice of citizen’s charter will be evaluate in accordance with the administrative culture of Bangladesh.
Citizen Charter in Practice: The Cultural Challenge
Since the adaptation of the Citizen’s charter in Bangladesh in 2007, no interest has been observed among the people, even among the literate persons, on the citizen’s charter since there are no significant changes in the quality of services before and after the adoption of charters (Razzaque, F. 2012b). At present, about 80 percent of public offices display their Citizen’s Charters as a condition set by the government (JICA. 2009). Importantly, despite the big step forward towards ensuring citizen’s right by adopting second generation CC, the situation remain almost unchanged. In spite of the claim of involving citizens in various stages of the CC formation by Ministry of Establishment, citizens’ voice did not have much impact on it. Razzaque (Razzaque, F. 2012a). also criticized them as the CC developed hastily and not engaging the people. Therefore, how much impact these charters will have in improving services is remain questionable.
Different studies have showed that the CC has not been proved very successful to bring any remarkable change in public service delivery (Razzaque, F. 2012a). The key reason behind this is the bureaucracy of Bangladesh with its colonial legacy often apathetic to the needs of the people, tends to resist change and reluctant to adopt new ideas (Razzaque, F. 2012b). What people get from the public servants before the CC, they get almost the same service even after initiatives of the second generation CC since bureaucratic culture and norms remain the same during that period. Citizens are increasingly disappointed with the service of public officials as wide spread bribery, increasing corruption, misappropriation of funds prevalent in the country. Citizens need to wait long time in the public offices to get even a very pretty job. On the other hand, the highly centralized administrative practice of bureaucracy hampers the effective and efficient service delivery. All major decisions are taken at the central level, which is not meeting the requirements of the field level.
In her study, Nayem (Nayem, Z. 2010) confirms that in Upazila land offices (Sadar and Araihazar in Narshindi) the CC has not made any substantial change because of old bureaucratic service delivery system. The power gap between high officials and subordinates are acute in existing system due to legacy of British administrative culture. The public servants hardly made any initiatives to make the CC successful and bring the service at citizens’ doorsteps. Her study also confirms that lack of commitment and seriousness of public officials and often relying on decision of top bosses even on tiny matter made the CC almost unsuccessful.
In similar vein, analyzing the CC of Department of Immigration and Passports of Bangladesh (DIP) Razzaque (Razzaque, F. 2012b ) shows that due to the British colonial legacy bureaucracy is considered as closed system and tended to resist changes. Therefore, there is hardly any effect on service delivery in DIP despite the sprit of the CC. According to her “employees at DIP perform within a ‘top-down’ or rigid decision making culture which is often disowned by the frontline staffs resulting in their low enthusiasm and ownership of the core values of Citizen’s Charter” (Razzaque, F. 2012b). She also shows that top-level bosses of DIP enjoy full authority to resolve any kind of problem with little or no power to the lower level employees. Even, the clients have only limited option to give any opinion regarding service quality.
In another study, Jahangir (Jahangir, M.H. 2009) shows that the Citizen’s Charter is not displayed in the open place in Dhaka City Corporations. Even there is no system for monitoring the implementation of the charter. Similarly, the Kamalapur Railway Station in Dhaka has no citizen’s charter hanging in the open place. To its worst, it is not even hanging in the information centre rather authorities hang the charter inside the office of the station master (Chowdhury, S. I. 2012).
In most of the government institutions, public servants consider themselves as the master not servant of citizens to whom they are supposed to serve. Jamil (2002) precisely pointed out that a high degree of power distance between authority and common citizens exists in Bangladesh as their attitudes towards citizens is elitist rather than egalitarian. Therefore, this kind of elitist cultural trend seems to be one of the main barriers of successful implementation of the Citizen’s Charter.
The second dimension of Hofstede (Hofstede, G. 1980) cultural theory is uncertainty avoidance where the weaker the uncertainty avoidance, the greater the less rules and regulations will be in practice. In contrast, the stronger the uncertainty avoidance, the greater the more rules and regulations will be applied. Bureaucracy of Bangladesh shows a very high degree of uncertainty avoidance where all action taken according to rules, regulations and previous instances even in the changing circumstances.
In administrative culture of Bangladesh, citizens are not treated as client rather considered as outsiders of the system. Therefore, citizens’ feelings and feedbacks are less considered in the continuous decision-making cycle. Even in the case of emergency, public officials tend to follow the rules and regulation strictly as Nayem explicitly points out “bureaucrats at Upazila land offices have strong predilections to follow rules of the game. In other words, they are not flexible even in the case of urgency. They treat two different situations in similar fashion though one is routine and the other novel” (Nayem, Z. 2010).
Due to strong uncertainty avoidance situation among the bureaucrats, Zafarullah explains that junior and mid level officers reluctant to take any responsibility fearing of violating the decision of their superiors. According to him, “virtually every decision in the Secretariat is governed by disparate sets of rules and regulations which tend to create procedural bottlenecks” (Zafarullah, H. 1998). In similar vein, Jamil (Jamil, I. 2002) observes that the bureaucrats of Bangladesh are more concerned with rules rather than results.
In her research, Razzaque (Razzaque, F. 2012b ) shows that CC of DIP contains only minimum information and, to its worst, does not even have a specific designed complaining body where citizens could file their complain about the service. In addition, low level officers in DIP follow the strict rules and regulations rather than being client oriented. She also confirms that due to rigid organizational culture employees of DIP unwilling to accept some techniques such as complaint redresses, publishing standard behavioral system etc. These examples clearly indicate the presence of strong uncertainty avoidance condition in bureaucratic system in Bangladesh as Jacobs confirms it, “the Bangladesh Civil Service is not strongly oriented towards serving its citizens. Instead, it is predominantly focused on administrative procedures” (Jacobs, C. 2009).
Relationship to Politics and Society
The traditional norms and cultures are still strong among bureaucrats in Bangladesh, which affect their relationships to citizens, work-related attitudes, behavior and their relationship to politics and society. Bureaucracy of Bangladesh has been facing the major threat from confrontational politics since the independence in 1971. Affluent dominance of politics over administration has been one of the main concerns in ensuring good governance in Bangladesh. In the process of monopolization, the ruling parties exercise unfair dominance over all the key institutions of the country. Consequently, bad political culture infects bureaucracy by introducing nepotism, institutionalization of partisanship and patronage. Osman points out that “the trend of monopolization of state apparatus by the winning party has impaired the functioning of the formal accountability mechanisms, which ultimately leads to a crisis in governance” (Osman, F.A. 2010).
The external context of administrative culture, therefore, plays a decisive role to settle on quality and standard of public service in Bangladesh. For this reason, Alkadry rightly noted, “Bangladesh civil service is by no means the only example of a civil service in which orientation towards poor citizens is a distant promise” (Alkadry, M. 2003). The situation exacerbates when unqualified people in gets key positions due to inadequate and politically biased recruitment procedures, where political loyalties often supersede professional ethics (BRAC). Similarly, many personnel are promoted based on political consideration in civil service. These personnel are always blamed for ineffective service delivery, which is not a good practice for effective citizen’s charter in Bangladesh.
In similar vein, Razzaque finds in her cases, clients need some kinds of influence to get access to the concerned DIP officials. In her words, “less-educated people face difficulties in getting access to concerned DIP officials … some people get easy access to the higher authority as they are somehow known (relatives, friends, friends of friends, etc.) to the officials”. She also remarks, “The public relation officers of DIP are still not that much empathetic towards clients’ needs and demands” (Razzaque, F. 2012b).
On the other hand, one of the main barriers of successful implementation of the Citizen’s Charter is undue pressure of politicians and their followers to public servants. Local MPs or local ruling politicians controlled the public institutions by manipulated government funds, for example, Food For Works Program (FFW), Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF), Vulnerable Group Development (VGD) cards and old age pensions etc. Consequently, local public institutions have to fulfill the demands of local politicians and grassroots workers by providing the major share of development fund instead of the poor and vulnerable and thereby, often cannot meet the charter’s promise to the citizens. Therefore, the core purpose of the citizen’s charter, serving the citizens the best remains a distant reality due to tainted political culture of Bangladesh.
In order to provide better service there is a need for effective architecture of administrative systems and its favorable external atmosphere. A new initiative alone is therefore not a guarantee of success; its progress needs to be accompanied by the change in administrative culture and norms. According to the previous discussion, therefore, the study recommends some policy option for effectiveness of citizen’s charter initiatives in Bangladesh.
1. To change the administrative culture, every manager of an organization should set his orher organizational vision and appreciate the cultural changes necessary for effectiveness of citizen’s charter.
2. Concerns, values and constrains of staff need to be articulated, listen and where possible acted upon. That will ultimately change staff’s behavior to the clients.
3. Administrative units should be more decentralized and the responsibilities of personnel should be delegated where decision making can most effectively be made.
4. Effective in service training concerning cultural change is needed which help to change the mind of staffs and operate whole team as a single unit.
5. A series of open consultation with staff needed which allow staff to question the head of service to be updated and on events and major policy change that will encourage them to provide clients first-hand service.
A citizen’s charter is an important tool for providing accountable, effective and time bound services to the citizens. A citizen’s charter requires a strong commitment to its core values to provide citizens the quality of services as desired. The Cizen’s Charter of Bangladesh, as a new initiative, is under pressure to deliver the quality services in a responsive, transparent and accountable manner. One of the main reasons is the close, traditional and colonial administrative culture in Bangladesh that is not opening up to the wider system to generate effective service delivery. As a result, the prevalent administrative culture of Bangladesh is a big barrier to make the initiative of citizen’s charter most successful. Despite many constrains, bureaucracy of Bangladesh needs to change its prevailing culture and norms along with the administrative system to provide effective and satisfactory services as citizen’s charter promises.
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* Associate Professor, Department of Political Studies, Shahajalal University of Science and Technology, Sylhet.