Cape Town: Although government says there’s room for improvement in key delivery areas, it has achieved several successes in speeding up police response times, social grants applications, temporary residence permits and the filling of public service vacancies, the Director General of the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, Sean Phillips, said today.
Briefing the National Assembly’s portfolio committee on public service and administration, Phillips detailed the progress the government had made in key areas such as health and education, but pointed out that the state continued to face significant challenges in the areas of management which erode service delivery.
He, however, highlighted several successes in improving services to citizens, including the significant reduction by the Department of Home Affairs of the processing time of temporary residence permits.
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 SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) had cut the time needed to process grant applications by a third in the last years – from 30 days in 2010 to nine days in May this year.
Added to this, the average time to fill public sector vacancies had been almost halved – from nine months in the 2010 financial year, to under five months in the 2011/12 financial year.
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.
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 of an acceptable level, there was no active management of queues.
Added to this, managers were often not visible at service points, respective complaints systems were underutilised 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 the area of management.
The tool analyses management practices in each department, based on the submission by each department of their 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.
Singling out the problem of late payment of suppliers by government as one particular concern of his department, he 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 note issued by the National Treasury in November last year to report on late payments.
Another concern by the Department of Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation 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 Department of Health, which found among other things 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.
Added to this, all departments involved directly with the delivery of services to citizens, should carry out on-site visits of service points to assess whether programmes were being carried out effectively.