Situation Analysis Report: Grievance Redress System in Bangladesh

It has long been felt that the initiatives of different ministries and organisations in Bangladesh, including NGOs, need to be coordinated to develop an integrated Grievance Redress System (GRS) to make grievance redressal more effective and efficient for the public. The Cabinet Division, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, has therefore authorised the Bangladesh Computer Council (BCC) to organise a technical committee to review and enrich the existing GRS software that draws upon the most effective technological architecture as well as feature-rich automation for the benefit of citizens. It is expected that such an initiative would also enrich the other various measures taken by different ministries and field level offices to address public grievances. 

It was decided at the first meeting of the GRS Technical Committee, held on 31, December, 2015, to conduct a review and mapping of all grievance mechanisms or systems being implemented or in the process of implementation in the country by any government, non-government or development agencies. The purpose behind the initiative has been to maximise possible features for an updated and effective redress system that can be incorporated with the current GRS system of the Cabinet Division that was developed with support from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and support on capacity building from A2I Project of the Prime Minister’s Office. The learnings from all systems in existence in Bangladesh (whether in government or non-government sectors) will be used as valuable inputs for improving the Cabinet GRS. UNDP Bangladesh was requested to lead the mapping exercise by engaging technical professionals to trace and find any GRS mechanism in place (whether digitised or manual) implemented by GOs, NGOs, CSOs and DPs.  The deadline for submitting the report on the findings of the survey was 21 January, 2016.

This report, therefore, provides a comprehensive picture including an analysis of existing GRS managed by GOs, NGOs, and DPs, in terms of whether such systems exist in Bangladesh in digital or manual form and their modus-operandi. The first chapter, which describes the study objective and methodology, both primary and secondary data were used for the research, while relevant literatures were reviewed and a quick survey was conducted to collect information from NGOs. The literature review has revealed that no comprehensive mapping studies have ever been conducted on existing GRS in Bangladesh. Previous studies in this area have mainly focused on review of government policies, citizen’s charters, ministry documents and websites.

The second chapter of this report presents an analysis of existing GRS mechanisms used by different ministries. It presents a review as well as insights into the basic and most common components of GRS currently in practice. The survey has revealed that out of 52 ministries only six has some form of online grievance mechanism and all the 52 ministries also have the mechanism of manual GRS systems as per the guidance of the Cabinet division. However, most of these systems lack maturity and have only the basic provision for lodging complaints without enabling complainants to track the outcome of their complaints.

Some examples of government GRS are described in detail in the third chapter, which also identifies the Cabinet GRS to be among the most ideal as it fulfils the maximum number of indicators selected by the research team. The online grievance redress mechanism of the Bangladesh Bridge Authority was also identified as the most appropriate in terms of data security, website friendliness and attraction. On the other hand, the Road Transport and Highway Division website was observed to have the least amount of data privacy and the comments made by complainants were visible to everyone.

The report also presents insights on the existing practices of the NGO sector in terms of use of GRS, the fourth chapter of the report describes the findings of a telephone survey of altogether 16 GRS in 11 NGOs (BRAC, Christian Aid, Dnet, IID, Acid Survivors Foundation, Aparajeyo- Bangladesh, Ain-o- Salish Kendra, Bangladesh National Women Lawyers’ Association, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, Naripokkho, Manusher Jonno Foundation). Only three out of these 11 NGOs (BRAC, Dnet and Christian Aid) were found to have an online mechanism. BRAC manages an online GRS as the field partner of UNDP, Bangladesh, and receives complaints particularly for 

violence against women related issues. Dnet, another NGO, runs an online GRS which works as a platform for the Right to Information Act while Christian Aid, Bangladesh has an online system used only by their employees. Although many other NGOs maintain hotline services that receive complaints, there is no specific mechanism for doing follow-up on the complaints filed through those services.

The final chapter summarises the findings of the rapid mapping exercise/survey. It also explains the indicators that the team identified as necessary for any grievance redress system to be effective and ideal. The chapter further puts forward some recommendations for consideration of the Cabinet Division of the GoB. These include recommendations for:

  • Reviewing all available online based GRS packages and their merging under one online platform to make the system efficient and inclusive led by the Cabinet Division;
  • Synchronising all grievance redress systems of NGOs with the Cabinet Division to ensure cohesion and uniformity with the online GRS. The government should encourage all NGOs to maintain their databases online so there is a way to connect them with the government system;
  • Ensuring that grievance systems are both digital and manual. Manual systems are also needed given the huge population as well as low access to and lack of skills in using an online services.
  • Conducting massive awareness and confidence building on GRS services among the population, and allocating dedicated financial resources for GRS, particularly for district, Upazilla and union levels.
  • Ensuring that ministries publish status reports on GRS; and
  • Developing standard operating procedures with flow charts for GRS.

While the initiative taken by the GoB to develop a centralised GRS under the Cabinet Division is praiseworthy, the success of the system depends on its development in a way that incorporates strategic and crucial components described in this report. A successful GRS would rely upon robust research of existing successful examples and should be activated after considering necessary inputs and feedbacks from all stakeholders from the government, NGOs and private sector. The information acquired through this study strongly suggests that other GRS mechanisms in the country should be reviewed for technical compatibility, that a feasibility study should be conducted to look into the possibility of linking up the different mechanisms, and that components of systems that pave the way for effectiveness should be incorporated in the proposed Cabinet Division GRS.

Click on the image to view