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Listening to the people

Date: 29 August, 2023

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

Reading Time: 9 Minutes

29 August, 2023
Writer : Rumana Sharmin, MD Abdullah Al Mamun, and Md Rahmat Ullah
Source : Dhaka Tribune
· Reading Time: 9 Minutes

Listening to the people

Listening to the people

The GRS can play a crucial role in the pursuit of Vision 2041 and the establishment of a Smart Bangladesh.

As outlined in our piece last week, the grievance redress system (GRS) is a mechanism or platform established by governments, organizations, or institutions to address and resolve complaints, grievances, or concerns raised by individuals or groups.

The primary objective of a GRS is to provide a transparent, accessible, and efficient process for handling and resolving grievances of citizens. A general citizen of the country who files a grievance online using GRS is able to monitor the dashboard of the status of the application. The citizen can file against the responsible officer if not redressed properly. As a result, government officials are always aware of delivering services at the desired level for the citizen

GRS in Bangladesh

An assessment shows that the GRS is widely regarded as an innovative solution for improving accountability in public service delivery and promoting citizen empowerment and ownership. Many respondents have praised the GRS for its ability to quickly resolve grievances, without any delay or harassment, resulting in more efficient delivery of services.

In addition, the system has been lauded for its user-friendly interface, which allows individuals to file grievances from any location, at any time, using digital devices and the internet. Respondents have also noted that the GRS promotes accountability among service-providing agencies and encourages the digitization of relevant processes.

According to the study, since May 2020, the online Grievance Redress System (GRS) in Bangladesh has been implemented in over eight thousand government offices and has been accessed by almost seven thousand users. During the period under review, a total of over three thousand complaints were submitted through the online GRS. This indicates that citizens are slowly but surely aware of their rights and know about the GRS mechanism to raise their grievances.

GRS in other countries:

Online grievance redressal mechanisms have been implemented in many countries globally. For example, India’s “Centralized Public Grievance Redress and Monitoring System (CPGRAMS)” allows citizens to lodge complaints against various government departments. Likewise, in the United States, citizens can file complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or the Federal Trade Commission through online platforms.

However, such mechanisms are not yet familiar in Bangladesh. In China, resolving grievances involves a complex network of institutions and government sectors, where petitioning through calls, emails, and visits is the primary method.

The National Public Complaints and Proposals Administration, now under the state council since March 2023, handles complaints independently, diverging from the previous referral process. Yet, critics contend that this independent action has led to issues like reduced health benefits for pensioners and the suppression of petitioners, including lawyers and activists, who are restricted from speaking out on sensitive matters.

The EU has a digitized Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process, enabling citizens to settle complaints against EU institutions without resorting to courts, overseen by the European ombudsman. The second ADR meeting in 2021 stressed fairness, accessibility, ease of use, affordability, and speedy resolution. While member countries of the EU possess effective Grievance Redress Systems (GRS) within their nations, the ombudsman offers a unique case study on how such systems can prevail on a larger scale across countries.

Comparison of GRS of Bangladesh with other countries:

China v Bangladesh

China does not have a centralized grievance redress system like many other countries. Hence, there are typically five types of grievance redressal systems in China, categorized according to the complaint type or area of focus: Administrative complaints, consumer complaints, labour disputes, environmental complaints, and judicial complaints.

The main purposes of these systems are to address complaints, maintain social stability, and resolve issues. Each area has a distinct purpose, framework, committee structure, and methods of resolution.

On the other hand, The Bangladesh GRS is more focused on certain sectors than others, with a more comprehensive list of systems for the same. In Bangladesh, complaints are typically focused on government services, corruption, misconduct, etc, and the aim is to improve response time, resolve administrative issues, and ensure accountability. Bangladesh GRS’s main goal is to build safe and reliable system foundations alongside specialized organizations for other complaint sectors.

India v Bangladesh

The twin cities of Hubballi and Dharwad are in North Karnataka in Southern India. The proximity of these two cities created one single municipal corporation. The citizen is central to the functioning of the HDMC3. As proposed in the Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Public Grievance Bill for a Citizens Charter, the HDMC had planned for a citizen’s charter that set a service standard and specified time for answering grievance complaints.

The same concept was adopted in Bangladesh when in 2007, the Cabinet Division took the initiative of implementing a citizen’s charter in various public offices. Moreover, decentralization is very prominent in both India and Bangladesh where the division of districts is completed amongst zonal wards. Decentralization of urban settings has been undertaken by the government of Bangladesh through the Urban Resilience Project.

One important approach to ensure consistency of the success of redress systems, the government of Bangladesh has mandated a monthly exchange of data on grievances and how they were resolved. This best practice is supplemented by monthly meetings with all the ministries concerned. Although centralization of public grievances does exist in India, such an organized and effective practice of reviewing the progress of redress systems is lacking.

EU v Bangladesh

The last few decades have been a period of change in manners to express grievances against the government’s services. The rise of digitization has facilitated attempts to create an easy and convenient complaint system, prioritizing the needs of the citizen. Almost every state-funded service in the EU and Bangladesh can be contacted digitally to resolve issues with consumers.

While the former has created a fairly extensive problem-solving mechanism, Bangladesh as a developing country has more recently undertaken efforts to improve accessibility to technology in such cases. With respect to the EU and the Bangladeshi model, GRS in general tends to suffer from a lack of awareness and knowledge about the process of complaint creation amongst consumers.

A major point of difference with respect to approach is the pre-eminence of the ombudsman. An emphasis has been placed on the European ombudsman to resolve people-focused challenges with the union’s institutions, benefitting from improved online services and a bigger role in the EU Charter.

It is to be noted that the ombudsman system, mentioned in the Bangladesh constitution, hadn’t been seriously practiced in the country till the online GRS was introduced.

The future of the GRS

The GRS can play a crucial role in the pursuit of Vision 2041 and the establishment of a Smart Bangladesh. It would be a greater challenge in the future for the government to resolve the citizen’s issues as day-by-day people will expect more from their government. Most of the time, physical grievances remain unaddressed which might not help to get a better understanding of citizen’s acceptance of their government.

In conclusion, embracing an online GRS is not only essential for meeting the challenges of the future but also instrumental in creating a government that listens, responds, and evolves with the needs of its citizens.

By adhering to the principles of transparency, responsiveness, efficiency, and fairness, the government can lay a strong foundation for the realization of Vision 2041 and the establishment of a Smart Bangladesh, driven by the aspirations and aspirations of its people.

The GRS in Bangladesh also contributes to achieving SDG Goal 16, Indicator 16.10, by providing a transparent, accessible, and efficient mechanism for resolving citizens’ complaints and promoting accountability in public service delivery, fostering citizen empowerment, and ensuring prompt and fair resolution of grievances.

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

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