Service Level Benchmarks

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Service Level Benchmarks

Background

The urban sector is being increasingly recognized as a critical growth driver for the Indian economy. The share of population residing in urban areas is also witnessing rapid growth – from 28% in 2001, it is projected to rise to 38% by 2026. Basic service levels however remain well below desired levels.

Even as additional investments are being made in these services, there is a critical need to increase accountability for service delivery. This has also been the cornerstone of the urban reform agenda being implemented as part of various centrally sponsored schemes (e.g. JNNURM, UIDSSMT). It envisages a shift in focus from infrastructure creation to delivery of service outcomes.

Benchmarking is now well recognized as an important mechanism for introducing accountability in service delivery. It involves measuring and monitoring of service provider performance on a systematic and continuous basis. Sustained benchmarking can help utilities to identify performance gaps and introduce improvements through the sharing of information and best practices, ultimately resulting in better services to people.

Recognizing its importance, the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), Government of India has launched the Service Level Benchmarking (SLB) initiative covering water, sanitation, solid waste management and storm water drainage.

What is Service Level Benchmarking (SLB)?

 

 

A Handbook on Service Level Benchmarking has been developed and released by the MoUD, which seeks to (i) identify a minimum set of standard performance parameters for the water and sanitation sector that are commonly understood and used by all stakeholders across the country; (ii) define a common minimum framework for monitoring and reporting on these indicators and (iii) set out guidelines on how to operationalize this framework in a phased manner.

The framework encompasses 28 performance indicators as follows:

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The SLB initiative aims to overcome challenges faced in earlier benchmarking exercises in the following ways:

  • Uniform set of indicators, definitions and calculation methodology to enable meaningful comparisons
  • Provision of service benchmarks to create consensus on desired service standards
  • Data reliability grades to highlight and address issues of data quality
  • Self-reporting by ULBs (as against consultants) to ensure ownership for data
  • Emphasis on performance improvement planning based on the SLB data generated.

Operationalizing the SLB Framework: 

To encourage and facilitate adoption of the SLB framework outlined in the Handbook, the MoUD launched an SLB Pilot Initiative in February 2009. The Initiative involved provision of technical support for implementation of the framework in 28 pilot cities across 14 states and one union territory viz. Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Manipur, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and New Delhi.

The overarching aim of the SLB Pilot Initiative has been to take the SLB framework forward from concept to practice. Moreover, it aims to establish the link between benchmarking and internal performance improvement efforts. By doing so, it is expected that ULBs/ utilities would be encouraged to integrate the benchmarking process and its outputs into their decision processes.

The initiative encompassed the following aspects:

  • Collation of performance data using the indicators and methodologies outlined in the SLB Handbook;
  • Implementation of improved information systems at the city and state level to support provision of this data on an on-going basis.

The pilot initiative was undertaken under a partnership arrangement with the involvement of various development agencies, viz. Water Sanitation Program - South Asia, JICA, GTZ, CEPT (supported by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) and PROOF.

In order to ensure that the cities took a lead in the exercise, a SLB Core Committee was constituted for each pilot city, consisting of representatives from the various service departments. In addition, a State Nodal Officer was nominated to facilitate and oversee the SLB implementation of the pilots from the state government’s perspective.

At the end of the data collection exercise, a National Consultations Workshop on SLB was held in the month of December 2009 at which the pilot cities presented their SLB performance data,and proposed actions for improving performance. They were also informed on good practices from the Indian/ international context. The workshop provided the cities a chance to reflect on their performance over the four service areas and also compare themselves to other cities. It enabled city officials to identify their shortcomings as also possible strategies for overcoming them.

As a follow up to the Workshop, cities are developing Information Systems Improvement Plans and Performance Improvement Plans,which identify specific actions they propose to take and expected service levels consequent to their implementation.

Box: PIP & ISIP Actions being initiated

  • Bhubaneswar: Connection Melas to increase direct connection base. Incentive programs for staff to improve the collection efficiency. Introduction of a valve-checking program to reduce leakages. Introduction of bulk flow metering to improve network management.
  • Raipur: Introduction of SWM charges for bulk waste generators. Rationalization of connection costs, to increase direct connections to the urban poor.
  • Hyderabad: Introduction of an automatic meter-reading system and the establishment of a water quality protocol.

Going Forward:

The principle of accountability for service levels is now gaining broad based acceptance at all levels. The ULBs are at the forefront of this shift, based on the decentralization agenda articulated under the 74th Constitutional Amendment. The simple 5-point SLB agenda for ULBs would be as follows:

  • Track performance over time
  • Compare performance with peers
  • Identify areas for improvement
  • Set targets for performance (for own dept., or public/ private service providers)
  • Report/ Disclose performance to stakeholders (e.g. councillors, citizens)

The MoUD is incorporating this principle in all its programs and initiatives e.g. JNNURM, UIDSSMT, Satellite Townships program, National Water Awards, National Urban Awards. It is also committed to providing necessary support to states/ cities making efforts to institutionalise Service Level Benchmarking in their context.

States like Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat are already in the process of scaling up the benchmarking exercise to cover a larger number of cities in their respective states. These can serve as a demonstration for other states to adopt similar scale up strategies.

The principle of benchmarking has been further endorsed by the 13th Finance Commission ( Chapter10 , Annex10 )which has included Service Level Benchmarking as one of the conditionalities for allocation of performance based grants to ULBs, which amount to approx. Rs.8000 crores over the period 2010-15.

In light of the above it is hoped that ULBs would embrace the principle of service accountability and take the lead in using the SLB framework to deliver improved services for their citizens.

National Roll-out:

The Thirteenth Finance Commission (13th FC) has mandated that state governments put in place standards for delivery of essential services by Local Bodies among the fulfillment of other conditions linked to the access of performance based grants. This requires State Governments to notify or cause all the municipal corporations and municipalities to notify by the end of a fiscal year (31 March) the service standards for four service sectors water supply, sewerage, storm water drainage and solid waste management proposed to be achieved by them by the end of the succeeding fiscal year. This could be in the form of a declaration of a minimum level of service for the indicators mentioned against each of these four service sectors in the Handbook on Service level Benchmarks (SLB) published by the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), Government of India. It also suggested that this process should be put in place at least in municipalities and municipal corporations.

In the context of the recommendations of the 13th FC, the Ministry of Urban Development, initiated a nationwide rollout programme to operationalize service level benchmarking process and build capacities across states and ULBs; specifically Municipalities and Municipal Corporations. This is one of the nine conditions, the fulfillment of which would enable the States to access performance grants recommended by the 13th FC. About 1,800 municipalities, municipal corporations and parastatals will come under the ambit of the SLB rollout programme.

The principal objective of SLB rollout is to enable the ULBs to access performance grants under the 13th FC allocations through compliance to the condition on SLB. MoUD’s national rollout strategy aims to extend capacity building and handholding support to municipalities, municipal corporations and parastatals through Administrative Staff College of India, (ASCI) Centre for Energy, Environment, Urban Governance, Infrastructure Development, Hyderabad. They are providing hand-holding support to State SLB Cells to enable the urban local bodies (ULBs) to commit to a minimum level of service standards and define actions towards realizing these standards in a given timeframe.

The principal objective of SLB rollout is to enable the ULBs to access performance grants under the 13th FC allocations through compliance to the condition on SLB. MoUD’s national rollout strategy aims to extend capacity building and handholding support to municipalities, municipal corporations and parastatals through Administrative Staff College of India, (ASCI) Centre for Energy, Environment, Urban Governance, Infrastructure Development, Hyderabad. They are providing hand-holding support to State SLB Cells to enable the urban local bodies (ULBs) to commit to a minimum level of service standards and define actions towards realizing these standards in a given timeframe.

MoUD has developed a format for states/ULBs to declare their benchmarks and publish the same in the State Gazette.

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