Faced with inefficiency and lack of transparency in information transfer, excessive red tape, and massive institutional inertia, the newly elected government of Xuhui District proposed sweeping innovations in 2003 to reinvent local government processes. On December 22, 2004, the Xuhui District Government issued a proposal based on trial sites, titled “A Proposal for Pushing Forward the Reinventing Government Process (RGP) In Xuhui.”
The concepts of Xuhui’s Reinventing Government Process are based on enterprise management; Xuhui’s innovators studied business efficiency strategies with the intention of adapting these systems to public administration. They also emphasized empowering grassroots-level employees to reform and rationalize the top-down nature of the District Government’s administration.
In the process of reinventing Xuhui’s government, bureaucrats created five mechanisms for procedural reform: first, by establishing Response Centers to serve local residents, innovators hoped to empower local-level employees with the authority to challenge the entrenched hierarchy of the district’s government. Second, Xuhui applied ISO-9001 regulations to delineate administrative responsibilities clearly between branches and offices. Third, by holding multiple-branch joint meetings, reformers built a holistic, inter-branch mechanism for exchanges program information. Fourth, program staff added performance evaluation to Xuhui District’s office procedures to emphasize the importance of client service and interaction. Currently, reformers are testing group client service evaluations at some sites in the Xuhui District Government. Fifth, Xuhui District has adopted a computer network to integrate management information. By sharing information between governmental agencies, businesses and individuals no longer need to apply to different agencies to get licenses or approvals.
By adopting its Reinventing Government Process, Xuhui’s District Government has managed to integrate its tasks, reducing the total number of applicant forms citizens must complete to receive services. For example, the Xietu sub-district office integrated three types of services (mail inquiries, judicial assistance, and the community hotline) into one service window. By decentralizing authority to sub-district offices for simple procedures, service to the client has been drastically improved. For example, business registration applications and other designated “simple applications” can now be handled by all officials about the sixth rank, many of whom work below the District level in local Xuhui offices. These types of applications account for 44.5% of all applications to the District Government, meaning that the devolution of approval to smaller branch offices has accelerated the process considerably. Similarly, arbitration procedures have been standardized, so that nearly 60% of cases can now be solved within seven days.
Though Xuhui District is not the first government to put into practice these types of government reforms in China, its innovations in the RGP have nonetheless been extremely effective. Administrators have begun to change procedures according to the status of the service recipients. For example, “Green Lane” government service for recipients of minimum living standard security, those with family dependents who cannot work due to old age or illness, is accelerated by one day. After the adoption of the RGP, surveys show that 32procedures can now be conducted in one to nine working days, seventeen can be completed in ten to twenty working days, and only six require more the twenty working days. Cooperation among departments has streamlined administrative procedures and service provision while increasing total capacity in Xuhui’s District Government.