I-Gov has taken a leap. During May 2012, Tunisian citizens from around the country weighed in on how well they are being served by the public sector. And the government is listening. Under a new social accountability policy supported by the Tunisia Governance and Opportunity Development Policy Loan (DPL) in 2011, the office of the Prime Minister created the first citizen scorecard platform. The initial results were published in Arabic on the main page of the Prime Minister’s website. The initiative is called the Barometer of Public Services. It helps build social accountability and good governance in public services. Any surprises in the findings? In one respect, no: public services fall short of what citizens want. The surprises came in other ways.
More people than expected expressed themselves. 9,000 citizens participated in the scorecard exercise. The exercise was Tunisia’s first such endeavor and was designed as a short online questionnaire, the results of which will inform the design and roll out of the fully fledged scorecard. Equal access to public services was a big concern, along with administrative complexity and access to information. 55% were dissatisfied with access to information, but 73% were dissatisfied with equality in access to services. The platform encourages public ownership of reforms and sets a standard for future progress toward good governance.
Citizens think a lot about a lot. Citizens were first asked to list the name(s) of service(s) with which they were the most dissatisfied. They pinpointed 19 different services. The percentage of citizens dissatisfied by specific services included: municipal (25%), health insurance (19%), hospital (18%), postal (10%) and civil security (10%). Other dissatisfactory services cited by 3% or less of the respondents, included revenue services, gas and electric, social security (private sector), drinking water, tribunals, social security (public sector), land registration, governorate and delegation services, telecommunications, customs, basic education, car and transport registration, sanitation, and university services. What will it take to make citizens happy? Citizens offered detailed recommendations for reforms, notably the need to simplify administrative procedures, improve access to information, improve personnel responsiveness and training, and make sure the right incentives are in place.
What next? Participatory reform. For the first time, information on service delivery is available to the public and can be used to hold the providers accountable. One example of a reform is recent health insurance changes to reduce delays in getting coverage. Moving forward, ensuring accountability and positive steps towards reform is a shared responsibility. Civil society at the local level should now step up and engage citizens and the administration in a broader dialogue on reforms.
So let the I-Governing begin. Following the first initiative, the Prime Minister’s office currently has a second scorecard underway, Tunisia’s National Health Insurance Fund Scorecard (in Arabic). This is to further inform the authorities and the public on citizens’ views on how to improve and reform health services.
Citizens now have a way to express themselves, and government the means to listen.