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Bringing people and the government together

Date: 22 August, 2023

Writer : Rumana Sharmin, MD Abdullah Al Mamun, and Md Rahmat Ullah
Source : Dhaka Tribune

Reading Time: 10 Minutes

22 August, 2023
Writer : Rumana Sharmin, MD Abdullah Al Mamun, and Md Rahmat Ullah
Source : Dhaka Tribune
· Reading Time: 10 Minutes

Bringing people and the government together

Bringing people and the government together

The Grievance Redressal System (GRS) is widely recognized as a valuable tool for promoting good governance where good governance encompasses the efficient and responsible management of public affairs, organizations, and institutions.

According to Rehman Sobhan, ‘Good governance is the exercise of power and authority in a manner that is transparent, accountable, participatory, equitable, and responsive to the needs of the people it serves.

Article 21(2) of the constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh states, “Every person in the service of the republic has a duty to strive at all times to serve the people.” Particularly, public servants are obliged to enhance the quality of services.

The example below provides a clear example of GRS utilized successfully:

Sarah is a university student who lives at Pallabi, Mirpur who noticed that her neighborhood had several potholes that were causing inconvenience and posing a risk to pedestrians and motorists. To address this issue, Sarah decided to utilize the Grievance Redress System (GRS) set up by the city corporation. 

She visited the GRS website, where she found a dedicated section for filing complaints and grievances. Sarah clicked on the “File a Complaint” option and provided detailed information about the potholes, including their locations and potential hazards. 

After submitting her complaint through the online form, Sarah received an acknowledgment email stating that her grievance had been registered and assigned a unique reference number. It also informed her that the complaint would be forwarded to the relevant department for investigation and resolution. 

Within a few days, Sarah received another email notifying her that her complaint had been assigned to the municipal roads and infrastructure department. A week later, Sarah received a final email informing her that the potholes in her neighborhood had been repaired successfully. 

The email also expressed gratitude for her prompt reporting and highlighted the city council’s commitment to addressing citizens’ grievances in a timely manner.

In the above example, the GRS provided Sarah with a platform to raise her concern about the potholes in her neighborhood. The system ensured that her complaint was registered, tracked, and promptly resolved by the relevant municipal department.

By utilizing the GRS, Sarah contributed to the improvement of her community and witnessed firsthand the effectiveness of the grievance redressal process.

The role of the Grievance Redress System (GRS) tends to be crucial for ensuring the accountability of the supply side and thus improving the overall status of good governance. But it still lacks popularization, and the demand side’s acceptance of jeopardized non-accessibility of allocated service.

History and evolution

Though it is assumed that the GRS system is new to us, yet the system of imparting complaints is visible even in the medieval age. Sinmungo (Big Drum) was a system of handling complaints during the Joseon Dynasty in Korea. People would hit a big drum in front of the king’s palace in order to present their grievances directly to the king, and the king would hear and resolve their issues.

Later, Mughal emperor Jahangir installed a huge bell at his palace enabling the people to ring the bell if anyone had any grievance. The system was introduced to ensure that citizens received instant grievance redressal.

In Bangladesh, the manual GRS was initiated first in 1986 by the government. The online GRS system was launched by Aspire to Innovate (a2i) Programme in 2015 and since then, it has been monitored by the Cabinet Division and all Ministries/Divisions.

Out of 64 districts in the country, 21 districts have a functioning online GRS system so far but the system is only available at the district level – while most services are provided at the Upazila (sub-district) level.

Before 2015, people had to go physically to the office and find out the officer responsible for resolving the matter of the complaint. This would take a long time, a lot of hassles and harassment, and significant monetary costs for the complainant.

But through the online GRS process, people can directly file their complaints to the concerned authority, monitor the progress of their complaints filed, get feedback or suggestions, and receive the solution.

Thus, the GRS has brought the government and the people closer in a transparent & accountable manner.

Effectiveness of GRS in maximizing good governance 

  • Ensuring transparency

The system allows citizens to lodge complaints or report instances of irregularities or maladministration, thereby exposing any wrongdoing and facilitating corrective action. As a result, public officials are encouraged to be more transparent in their actions, knowing that they are subject to scrutiny and accountability through the GRS.

A study explored that while filing a grievance physically, there is the option to keep the grievance unresolved by any official. But in the case of submitting complaints through online GRS, there is no way to hide the status of a grievance or to keep the complaints unresolved.

Because in the dashboard, all the progress of a particular grievance is recorded. If at any time, the complainant gets into his/ her GRS account dashboard, he/she will find all the progress documented in a systematic way.

  • Enhance inclusivity

By implementing the system, governments signal their commitment to inclusivity, as it allows all individuals, irrespective of their background or social standing, to access the grievance redressal process. This inclusivity enhances citizen participation and engagement, fostering a sense of ownership and shared responsibility.

  • Increasing government responsibility

A responsive government is one that actively listens to its citizens’ concerns and takes appropriate action. The GRS acts as a direct channel of communication between the government and the people, enabling officials to promptly address grievances and ensure timely resolution.

  • Amplifying the quality service

Effective governance necessitates the efficient utilization of resources and the delivery of quality public services. The GRS streamlines the grievance redressal process, eliminating bureaucratic hurdles and reducing delays.

By providing a structured framework for complaint handling, governments can allocate resources effectively and focus on resolving issues promptly which enhance the quality of its services.

  • Benefits in TCV (time, cost, and number of visits) 

As it is a digital platform, it makes the grievance redressal process more dynamic, accurate, and transparent. The GRS reduces the time, cost, and number of visits of the complainant. On the whole, the online GRS system is a strong tool to behold the prestige and transparency of the government and a blessing for the citizens.

How is the Grievance Redress System of Bangladesh different from other countries? 

  • Digital transformation

The GRS in Bangladesh embraces digital technology to provide citizens with an online platform for lodging complaints. This digital transformation enables convenient and accessible grievance registration, tracking, and resolution from anywhere at any time.

  • Centralized platform 

The Citizen’s Portal serves as a centralized platform for citizens to report grievances related to various government services. It brings together different government departments and agencies under one system, streamlining the complaint management process and ensuring comprehensive coverage.

  • Escalation mechanism 

To ensure effective resolution and address delays or unsatisfactory outcomes, the GRS in Bangladesh incorporates an escalation mechanism. This allows citizens to escalate their complaints to higher authorities or supervisory bodies if they are dissatisfied with the initial response or resolution.

  • Data analytics and performance measurement

The Citizen’s Portal collects and analyzes data on complaints, response times, and other relevant metrics. This data-driven approach enables the government to identify systemic issues, measure performance, and make informed decisions for improving service delivery and governance.

The future

Online GRS could be the best tool for the government to find the actual trend of issues, and subsequently develop the appropriate policy depending on it. By bolstering transparency and accountability, the GRS can ensure that citizens’ grievances are acknowledged, processed, and resolved with utmost transparency. This will foster trust in the government’s commitment to serving the people.

Through fostering responsiveness and inclusivity, the online GRS becomes a dynamic platform for citizens to voice their grievances and suggestions, promoting active citizen participation in governance. Enhancing efficiency and effectiveness through the GRS streamlines the grievance resolution process, enabling timely and targeted responses to citizens’ issues— thereby building confidence in the government’s ability to deliver results.

Lastly, the GRS can be a guarantee of a fair and just resolution process, aligning with the country’s aspirations for progress and development. This system will treat all citizens impartially, instilling a sense of justice and equity in the governance process.

Rumana Sharmin, Research Analyst, Aspire to Innovate (a2i). MD Abdullah Al Mamun, Young Professional, Aspire to Innovate (a2i). Md. Rahmat Ullah, Young Professional, Aspire to Innovate (a2i).

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