What type of relationship do citizens and public servants have?

Public service satisfaction, citizen trust, and participation are crucial when it comes to improving service delivery. The value of public officers’ interactions with citizens towards the improvement of public services is apparent and inspired us to conduct a simple research study involving 106 citizens and 22 public officers around Kampala and Wakiso districts where we SEMA is present to gauge their experience and views. 

From the information that we gathered from these different individuals, we have seen that many citizens are not bothered to give feedback to the public officers who serve them. The reasons for this range from not seeing the need to give feedback, to the citizens believing that whatever feedback they do give will not generate a change in the institutions. So, we see there’s general fatigue with public services to the extent that citizens feel hopeless in them ever improving. 

Regarding public servants, many officers have the desire to be rated for the services they provide to citizens but lack an avenue to gain this feedback. Alternatively, others were not moved by the idea of citizen feedback towards their services for their own varying reasons. In this article, you will find some of our findings concerning both the citizens’ and public officers’ thoughts in regards to service delivery.

Some citizens have communicated that if they have managed to get what they want from the institution, there is no need for them to give feedback. This is because they know that it’s the job of the public servants to do what citizens ask of them, but do not question when the services they are supposed to get are not given to them. However, when citizens are approached and asked what they think of service delivery at a station, most are surprised that anyone would even care to listen to what they have to say! Some of them would respond “Oh, well I don’t think anything can change about the service delivery”.

Some public servants think they have reached an ultimate level of importance, they think clients don’t get annoyed when they are bounced back and forth and on top of it, some of them want to be appreciated even if they have done nothing”, as one citizen visiting Wakiso municipality shared with us.”

When we asked some public officers about citizen feedback in relation to service delivery, some of them expressed their commitment to serve and were open to the feedback system but lacked an avenue where they could get the citizens’ views if they wanted to improve. As one public servant in Kampala shared:

it’s challenging but that’s part of our job. If I’m to mention challenges, I guess I’d state a lack of motivation especially because of the payment plan here. It’s not an excuse though, I mean it’s not the only job where lunch is not provided but when you’re in any position, be it in your institutions, you have to meet expectations because the client who you’re serving, I can guarantee you, does not know you’ve had nothing to eat.”

Others were less concerned about citizen feedback and the outcomes of it. Since working in public service has job security they figured that no matter the feedback, their jobs will not be affected. Some see it as an opportunity to conduct their private business making them unavailable at work, something that doesn’t favor the citizens that need the service. While others are open to the feedback system but lack an avenue where they can get the client’s view if they want to improve service delivery. 

From our survey outcomes, one can notice that some of the public officers work towards citizens’ satisfaction no matter the circumstances because they are expected to work. 

But there is a gap and that’s when we “SEMA” come in! Through talking to people from different walks of life, both citizens and public servants, we have found a mechanism that can help improve and bridge the gap between these two parties. We collect feedback from citizens and also share with the offices that serve these citizens. In this way, the service provider gets to know what the citizens’ actual needs are and how services can be provided, thus not only improving the relationship between both parties but also improving the citizens’ experiences. As they say, “true initiative expertise is learned from prolonged experience with good feedback on mistakes”. 

How are you trying to improve your relationship with civil servants?

Talk to us via Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp, phone, e-mail, or any of our feedback systems at public offices. Visit www.talktosema.org for more information. 

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