January 26, 2022

Is the Pakistan Citizen Portal Really Helping Citizens?

The Pakistan Citizen Portal (PCP) smartphone application launched by the Prime Minister’s Performance Delivery Unit (PMDU) claims to have resolved 1.66 million citizen complaints so far— that’s just over 90 percent of the total complaints received.

However; less than half a million complainants have shown satisfaction on the response of the government departments on their complaints, according to the official data.

In fact, more than 60 percent of the complainants who sent feedback through the PCP did not express they were satisfied about the government response, even though their complaints are marked as resolved on the PCP application.

The PCP was launched by the Prime Minister Imran Khan on 28 October 2018 with the aim to resolve the complaints of citizens regarding public service delivery in an efficient and timely manner. It was hoped that citizens will no longer have to visit the government departments multiple times to get their issues resolved.

As many as 1.5 million citizens are registered on PCP. The majority of the registered users — 51 percent — are from Punjab.

People registered or being registered on the PCP application are divided into three different categories: Pakistani, Overseas, and Foreigners. A registered member on the PCP may establish interaction with government organisations for lodging complaints, seeking guidance, and offering suggestions to resolve any issue pertaining to general public.

Citizens expected that their complaints will be resolved efficiently after the launch of this application. However, it appears that tactics of government officials are making the grievance mechanism ineffective. Users have complained that the problems they raised through the app still exist, but the concerned authorities have marked their complaints as resolved.

According to information made available by the PMDU under a federal right to information request, more than 1.8 million complaints were lodged on the portal up until 21 February 2020.

More than 1.6 Million complaints, or around 92 percent of the total complaints, were resolved. However, despite the high-resolution rate, only less than 40 percent of the users declared satisfaction over the response of the government departments.

Zaheer Ahmed Awan, a social worker and local leader of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf party in Rawalpindi, said he has filed 88 complaints. As per the PCP, 70 of these complaints are resolved. But in fact, Awan said, not a single complaint is resolved.

He said the bureaucracy and government officers are misleading the PMDU team with fake statistics, which is why a majority of the citizens have not shown expressed their satisfaction through the feedback features available in the complaint redress application.

On the PCP application, citizens have the facility to share their feedback about their complaint redressal. If a citizen is unsatisfied, the PMDU administration can re-open the complaints on the basis of the feedback shared by the citizens.

Official data shows that 1.2 million users shared feedback on their resolved complaints. A majority of the feedback, 61 percent, showed that citizens were unsatisfied about the manner in which their complaints were dealt.

Feedback on 472,116 resolved complaints is still pending. More than 26,000 complaints were re-opened on the basis of negative citizen feedback.

Khurram Umer, a resident of Rawalpindi, said PCP is good for petty issues such as garbage collection but it doesn’t work for the corrupt practices going on in the government departments.

“I have filed complaints against the illegal parking by the car showrooms, but the city traffic police Rawalpindi closed the complaints with comments that the concern field staff is informed,” Umer said. “Just informing the field staff does not mean that complaint is resolved, but government department marked my complaint resolved.”

Data provided by the PMDU in response to an RTI request.

According to Google Play Store statistics, more than 57,000 users have shared their review of the PCP app. The app has 3+ star rating out of 5.

One user Atif Iqbal, in his app review, said he wished there was a zero star rating option. “Departments closing complaints without resolution after two to three months. This must be linked to their performance, only then they will resolve these complaints at actual. Otherwise, it’s just waste of time and resources. Also set a time frame for resolution of complaints,” Iqbal wrote.

Another user Muhammad Asif requested that the government in his app review to take strict action against those officials who have incorrectly close the complaints without resolving the issues.

The PCP allows users can lodge complaints anonymously using a “hide identity” option, but apparently the government departments tagged in the complaints can still see the identity of the users.

Shahab Khan, a resident of district Nowshera,  said, his brother Saqibur Rahman filed a complaint about alleged irregularities in the appointment in Anti-Corruption department and despite selecting the “hide identity” option, they have received threats of serious consequences from some locals.

Khan said after receiving threats they filed complaint to the Director, Anti-corruption department Nowshera who ensured them he will look into the matter and will take action against those who have leaked their personal information.

According to the information shared by the PMDU in response to the information request, action has been taken against the officers of Police Department Punjab, Capital Development Authority, and Federal Board of Revenue for their negligence in addressing public grievances.

When contacted, Khawaja Imran Safdar, the Chief Executive Officer at Municipal Corporation Rawalpindi (MCR) said the PMDU administration has directed the public bodies to have at-least 50 percent positive feedback.

After lots of efforts, the MCR reached 43 percent positive feedback and it is doing its best to achieve the set target of 50 percent, Safdar said.

He said some time people lodge complaints about the personal information of other citizens such as request for the property documents of the other citizens, which can not be provided to them. After such complaints are closed, the users give negative feedback, Safdar said, hinting that the negative feedback might be due to unreasonable complaints.

A senior officer who deals with the PMDU in his government department said it is a fact that some complaints are closed without resolving them. But the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said now the PMDU has tightened its check-and-balance and is keeping a close eye on citizens feedback. The officer said the effectiveness of the PCP mechanism may improve with time.

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