How can public sector service providers deliver improved services to citizens within environments where inefficient and often corrupt service delivery is the norm? The following paper provides some answers to this question through examining the impact of a series of customer-focused service delivery reforms undertaken at the Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (Metro Water) in Hyderabad City, Andhra Pradesh state, Southern India at the end of the 1990s.
The Metro Water case is interesting, as it shows how a semi-autonomous service provider can undertake organisational change and realise sustained improvements in service delivery performance. If this process is deepened over time there is a greater opportunity to attract, and provide security for, larger state or private sector investments that can impact water supply and sewerage service delivery over the long-term. This is the scenario that emerges in the following case.
A key finding in this research is that multiple accountability relationships, operating between external actors and Metro Water staff, have collectively contributed to sustained organisational change and improved service delivery performance. The most critical of these relationships are those that triangulate between citizens, senior managers, and ‘front-line’ workers. In the Metro Water case active citizen engagement through formal accountability mechanisms has been the key to the organisation’s overall success in delivering improved services to citizens (both middle class and urban poor) throughout Hyderabad City.