PIB Press Release
Dr. M.Ramachandran, Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development inaugurated two- days( 14-15th Dec.) Workshop on Service Level Benchmarks - “Towards improving service outcomes”, here today. Speaking on the occasion, the Secretary stated that the service level benchmarking framework is one of the fundamental building blocks of the soft infrastructure that the cities need to build. He emphasised that the Government should support the states and the cities that adopt the framework and move towards greater accountability to people by regular disclosure of service levels. “We should think of the need to support performance improvement plans and information systems improvement plans. This should form an important element of our future strategy and can be built into all our initiatives such as the JNNURM, UIDSSMT and externally aided projects,” he said.
The Secretary further mentioned that by providing an opportunity for introspection and self-improvement, the practice of benchmarking will improve service delivery, strengthen accountability, bring in greater transparency, help in optimal resource allocation and prioritising of activities, and facilitate PPP. He said that it is also consistent with the need for regulation – an idea which is increasingly gaining momentum in the urban service delivery sector. Benchmarking also becomes highly relevant in view of rising customer expectations, demands for more efficient performance and ever increasing quality standards, he added.
Referring to Benchmarking in the urban service delivery sector he informed that it has been done in South East Asia in countries such as the Philippines where it has been used by the National Water Resources Board to set tariffs that are fair to consumers and utilities. He said that the International Benchmarking Network for water and sanitation utilities was started by the World Bank in the 1990s, to link performance information from utilities around the world. The Water Utility Partnership (WUP) for capacity building in Africa launched in 1996 took up a project called a ‘Service Providers’ Performance Indicators and Benchmarking Network to provide utilities with sustainable arrangements for compiling and sharing performance data. He informed that during the first year, 21 utilities from 15 countries participated. The project was then extended to cover the rest of the utilities in Africa. Currently, the database covers the performance of 110 utilities from 40 countries in Africa.
Dr. M. Ramachandran stated that a study of Urban Water utilities by the Ministry and Water Sanitation Programme (WSP) in 2005 revealed wide diversity in respect of most indicators. Coverage ranged from 45% in Bhubaneswar to 100% in Chandigarh. Production also presented a diverse picture from 102 LPCD in Indore to 608 LPCD in Jamshedpur. There was no metering in Indore whereas Hyderabad had almost 93% metering. He said that the study by the Ministry in collaboration with ADB in 2007 which covered the water supply sector in 20 cities revealed that the coverage of water supply services was only 81.2% and
metering was only 24.5%. The average water availability was 4.3 hours, average level of Unaccounted for water was 31.8% and the average operating ratio was way too high at 1.63. He further stated, “Though these studies were in the nature of one off exercises they highlighted the need for arriving at a standard set of indicators, standardising the definition of the indicators and the tremendous value that can be obtained from institutionalising the practice of benchmarking by integrating it with the day to day working of the utility be it an urban local body or a parastatal organisation”.
Talking about the formulation of benchmarks, the Secretary said that Ministry decided to take the initiative a step forward by initiating a pilot project in the implementation of benchmarking which would include not only documentation of baselines but more importantly performance improvement planning and information systems improvement planning. Appreciating the states which have taken concrete steps to enlarge the scope of this initiative, he mentioned that Karnataka has been proactive in introducing a benchmarking framework which covers sectors such as financial performance, parks and gardens, disease control, roadside drains and street lighting in addition to the water and sanitation sector. The framework is comprehensive and covers all the three tiers i.e the Urban Local Body, the Directorate of Municipal Administration and the Urban Development department at the state level. Performance in respect of these benchmarks will be used to incentivise grants to ULBs from the State Finance Commissions, he added. Manuals as well as software titled “SLB online application” have been prepared for institutionalising the benchmarking framework. In Bangalore, an electronic system is being developed for uploading of data at ward/zone level. The Government of Orissa has decided to institute SLB cells in the two cities of Bhubaneswar and Berhampur which were a part of the pilot initiative and the State Government. He informed that the Govt. of Madhya Pradesh has initiated operationalization of the SLB framework and performance improvement planning in 14 municipal corporations of the State. It is also exploring ways to integrate the benchmarking framework into the decision making process at the municipal and state level. Similarly, he mentioned that Andhra Pradesh is planning to scale up the SLB framework to 11 priority towns. The Governments of Maharashtra and Gujarat with support from the Bill and Gates Melinda Foundation are implementing a performance assessment system which is aimed at state-wide adaptation of the SLB framework covering 400 cities.
The pilot project on the implementation of benchmarking was launched in February 6, 2009. The pilot initiative covers 27 cities spread across 14 states and one UT, including 16 JNNURM cities. The SLB initiative is being implemented under a unique partnership arrangement with six development agencies i.e. Water Sanitation Program – South Asia (WSP-SA), JICA, GTZ, DfID, Gates Foundation and PROOF. These consist of a diverse mix of cities, ranging from small towns under one lakh population to mega-cities of 15 million, located in plains/ coastal/ hilly regions, with varied climatic conditions and institutional arrangements for service delivery. The intention behind launching the pilot initiative is to effectively demonstrate the applicability of the SLB framework under all operating environments.