New strategy to tackle service delivery
Cape Town - Performance Monitoring and Evaluation Minister Collins Chabane on Wednesday said he would present Cabinet with a strategy to tackle municipal service delivery failures at the end of July.
"We have taken that task head-on," he said ahead of his fledgling department's first budget vote in Parliament.
"We are currently finalising our strategy... and hopefully by the time we go to the Cabinet lekgotla we should be able to place on the table of Cabinet the things we think we need to do to assist in improving the functionality of municipalities."
The lekgotla is taking place from July 26 to 28.
Problems at local level
Chabane said two years after the department was formed, it was clear that while national policy was constantly adjusted to improve service delivery it was "at the local level that problems most need unblocking".
"The implementation of the outcomes approach still has to impact positively on the lives of our people," he conceded.
The department's director general Sean Phillips said it was fine-tuning a "front-line service delivery monitoring system" and piloting it in KwaZulu-Natal's municipalities.
Once implemented nationwide, the system should provide premiers and local councils with regular reports on delivery weaknesses and enable them to "take corrective action".
Chabane said the mindset of officials in all of government must change and his department had needed time to enlist their support for a monitoring system, rather than to police performance solely from the presidency.
"We should have the buy-in of the people, especially those who are going to implement it, so we have to take a lot of time in negotiations," he said.
"If we move and steam alone as a department and we think people are going to implement, they may as well not implement and the whole system can collapse, or alternatively people just comply because we are imposing a system from the outside."
Setting targets and indicators
Phillips said the department had studied international examples, notably Britain, where it concluded that the health service was harmed and not helped by enforcing targets directly from the prime minister's office.
The health department here has been allowed additional time to draw up its own indicators, because there was a real threat that hurriedly setting targets in some areas could lead to the neglect of others.
"Both we and the health department are very aware that you need to be very careful with setting targets and indicators, particularly in an area such as health where you don't have unintended consequences of focusing on particular targets.
"They have been through a process of very carefully defining targets and indicators for outputs in health delivery agreements."
Rural development was given the same leeway, he said.
Chabane said his office had so far filled only 75 of its 113 positions. It was hoping to double both its staff component and its budget, which is currently at R74m, in the next financial year.