Building sustainable capacity of municipal finance staff

2011-04-29 00:00

ONE of the objectives of government is to build the sustainable capacity of the finance staff at municipalities.

Capacity can be defined as the ability to execute all the required business processes of a municipality with its own staff. Sustainability on the other hand is the ability to execute these business processes on a regular basis at the right quality, time and speed.

Several barriers exist that prevent municipalities from achieving sustainable capacity. These can be listed as follows:

• Non-standardised processes

• Absence of key procedures

• No clarified roles and responsibilities

• Inadequate skills

• No measurement mechanism

• Unfocused training

Over the last few years municipalities have endeavoured to get their policies in place in order to achieve compliance.

Most municipalities have achieved this objective, but it has become apparent that the policies developed are difficult to implement and adhere to as they were not designed to facilitate implementation.

The question that now remains is how these policies can be standardised to make them working documents that are easy to implement.

This can be achieved by developing a database of standard policies and business processes, linking people to the standard business processes (implementation) and then monitoring the implementation (establishing repeatable processes). The implementation of the standard business processes is therefore more than just adopting a document.

This process involves mapping each step, reviewing the results and making adjustments until an effective business environment is achieved. Thereafter the commitment and acceptance of the roles and responsibilities is secured from all affected staff members. In some cases, it may even mean changing working methodologies and filing systems. This should lead to a better control environment and a more predictable business.

The process is followed by a structured process to monitor and measure adherence to the standard procedures.

These results are then expressed in terms of capacity. Capacity is measured and the growth (or decline) in level of capacity is reported on. The success of this process depends on:

• a high level of commitment from all parties involved (council, and staff at all levels)

• training and intensive monitoring

• ongoing self-monitoring

• change management

Although the concept is simple in principle, it can be very challenging in practice.

Organisations may be able to implement the concept by themselves, but our experience has shown that it is beneficial to drive the process with external assistance and a high level of commitment from the council and top management.

 

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