Established in 1997 Yangling National Agricultural Demonstration Zone (also called the Yangling Zone), in Shanxi Province, is the only national agricultural high-technology demonstration zone. In order to combat inefficiency and administrative failures, the “service charter” has been adopted. Since April 2003, all branches and levels of governments in Yangling have signed service charters outlining standards for service, legislative codes, individuals responsible for enforcement, telephone numbers to appeal decisions, and methods of punishment for infractions of the service character. According to these charters, every branch or department has delineated standards open to the public.
The service charter operates in the following manner. Each branch or department publicizes its charter in various ways, including the distribution of brochures. Within three years, over 8,000 copies of different service charters have been distributed. There have been 101 branches and departments in the Yanling Zone that have signed service charters; to do so is now a requirement for all government offices in the area. Yangling Zone is the first zone where the government has instituted service charters in all governmental units. To ensure the enforcement of service charters, government offices are subject to citizen complaints, higher-level supervision, accountability, and outside evaluation. A Complaint Center has been established. The Center is required to hold meetings for local businesses each month to listen to their opinions and suggestions for enterprise-specific service delivery. After hearing complaints, the Center has the responsibility to answer in a timely fashion to publicize the solution.
Citizens, the local congress, political consultants, internal supervisory departments, and personnel departments are all responsible for supervising government units to ensure standards of service and administrative responsibility. These bodies also hold democratic discussions and evaluations of each unit every year, involving local residents, firms, and congressional deputies. In the past two years, these evaluative discussions have been held eight times, with over 50,000 copies of surveys distributed by members of the evaluation committees.
Innovators have worked for accountability in these government units by clarifying rules to lay down punishments for those who break the service charter. In the past three years, the, Bureau of Administrative Law Enforcement have publicized cases involving nine staff members breaking service charters. As positive reinforcement, law enforcement in the Yangling Zone also conducts surveys of local enterprises annually to investigate government service quality; results are taken as criteria for renewals of employment and for promotion. Branches and departments will be warned if their dissatisfaction rate is over 10% and will be asked to apologize publicly if over 25%.
Since service charters were implemented in 2003, local government in the Yangling Zone has shown marked improvements in client satisfaction. In July 2005, one thousand samples taken from a survey among scientific institutes, schools, enterprises, villages, and communities showed that the general satisfaction rate for local government was 96.3%. In terms of the general service environment, social security, and sanitation, satisfaction rates were 98.5%, 94.6% and 96.6% respectively. These responses are an average of 13% higher than the last survey. Public security has also seen improvements since the implementation of the Yangling Zone’s service charters: by the end of November 2004, there were only 294 criminal cases pending, a drop of 31.3% compared with the corresponding period in the previous year. In an investigation of the satisfaction rate for public security in Shanxi Province, Yangling is ranked the first among 11 cities and districts with the rate of 92.57%.