13 September 2012
The South African government has achieved several successes in speeding up service delivery, Performance Monitoring and Evaluation Department director-general Sean Phillips said in Cape Town on Tuesday.
Briefing the National Assembly’s portfolio committee on public service and administration, Phillips said government had success in speeding up police response times, social grants applications, temporary residence permits and the filling of public service vacancies.
Faster reaction times
Reaction times by police to calls for help had fallen from 22 minutes in 2010 to just under 17 minutes in May this year.
The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) had also cut the time needed to process grant applications by a third in the last two years – from 30 days in 2010 to nine days in May this year.
Also, the average time to fill public sector vacancies had been almost halved, from nine months in 2010 to under five months in 2011/12.
The resolution of complaints laid with the Presidential Hotline had also increased significantly – from 39% of complaints logged in 2009 to 84% in May this year.
‘Weaknesses in management’
An assessment by his department – of the 122 unannounced visits it carried out in 2011/12 – to look at service delivery sites such as schools, clinics and social grants access points found that even though levels of safety, access and opening times were acceptable, there was no active management of queues.
Managers were also often not visible at service points, respective complaints systems were under-utilised and buildings were often in an unhealthy state.
Similarly, results of the management performance of national and provincial departments, as captured by his department’s Management Performance Areas Tool – which the Cabinet approved in June last year – revealed several weaknesses in management.
The tool analyses management practices in each department, based on the submission respective annual assessments.
The assessments reveal that departments score highest in areas such as management of logistics, strategic planning and programme management, but poorly in such areas as IT governance, improving service delivery, retention of staff and diversifying the workplace.
Phillips said weaknesses with HR management, planning, monitoring, supply chain management and procurement contributed to poor service delivery – including the late payment of suppliers, appointment of unqualified civil servants, under-spending by government departments and textbook delivery problems.
Late payment problems
Singling out the problem of late payment of suppliers by government, Phillips said in May government departments were sitting with 53 100 invoices to the value of R2- billion that had not been paid to suppliers within 30 days.
The number of outstanding invoices is likely to be far higher, as only 28 out of 39 national departments and eight of the nine provinces submitted reports in May this year, in line with an instruction issued by the National Treasury in November last year to report on late payments.
Another concern is that the debt owed by national and provincial departments to municipalities increased from R2.9-billion in June 2010 to R3.5-billion in March this year.
The quality of clinics and hospitals is also concerning, as revealed by a recent report by the Health Department, which found that only a quarter met cleanliness standards, just a third had improved patient safety and that over half of hospitals did not have sufficient medicines and other supplies.
Phillips said while the Monitoring, Support and Intervention Bill needed to be finalised soonest, national departments needed to put in place more comprehensive and appropriate norms and standards to improve the quality and delivery of provincial and local services, he said.
He said national departments also needed to monitor these norms more regularly and provide the necessary support to municipalities and provincial departments or take the necessary action to remedy problems.
All departments involved directly with the delivery of services to citizens should also carry out on-site visits of service points to assess whether programmes were being carried out effectively.